Tuesday, Mar 16, 2021
President Dell'Omo reflects on one-year anniversary of the pandemic
Dear Rider University community,
One year ago today, I was working in my office when I received the official word that all colleges and universities in New Jersey were directed to halt normal campus operations due to a novel coronavirus referred to as “2019-nCoV.” The order was effective two days later, on March 18, 2020. While much preparation for this eventual situation was already underway, the reality of pivoting Rider University to fully remote operations is a moment I will never forget.
In hindsight, closing colleges and universities across the state was a prudent decision, given all that we didn’t know about COVID-19 back then. But this unprecedented decision (a term used far too often in 2020), led to Rider’s swift and collaborative response to the monumental challenges before us.
In a message I sent to our university community on March 19, 2020, I wrote: We don’t always have the chance to choose the situations we find ourselves in, but we can always choose how we respond to those situations. How we respond to this unprecedented situation matters, and I’ve been inspired by the response of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. I want to thank each of you who has responded to the demands of this moment not just by meeting them but exceeding them.
One year later, that exact same sentiment still applies, even when so much of life as we knew it before March 2020 has changed.
While things look a little different today than they did a year ago when our state was in quarantine, the perseverance of this institution in dealing with the day-to-day challenges of a pandemic still continues in earnest.
From the earliest onset of the pandemic, teams of people across our institution rallied together and used their collective knowledge, expertise, creativity and determination to protect the health and safety of our campus community. While things look a little different today than they did a year ago when our state was in quarantine, the perseverance of this institution in dealing with the day-to-day challenges of a pandemic still continues in earnest. The work has been hard. And sometimes heartbreaking. None of us have ever confronted a challenge like the outbreak of COVID-19, or the grief and pain associated with it.
Many of you have experienced unimaginable heartache firsthand, having lost family members, loved ones, friends and neighbors to this dreadful virus. Statistics don’t begin to paint the true picture of the devastating sadness we’ve endured. Each number represents a life cut short. Let us take a moment to remember those we’ve lost to coronavirus, including those among our own Rider community. I extend my sincerest condolences to anyone who has had to face such anguish.
Despite the challenges and sadness, there were also many moments in the past year when the resilience of our university humbled me beyond words. Each of you, in some way big or small, helped to sustain Rider University this past year. Your actions exemplified the Rider spirit even on the most difficult of days. If I could personally thank every one of you, I would.
In the days and months to come, there will be more work to do, and more challenges to face. The development and distribution of vaccines brings promise and hope, but it will still be some time before things go entirely back to “normal.” So please, continue to wear a mask, stay socially distanced, wash your hands often and be diligent with all of the protocols in place to keep us safe and healthy.
We look forward to safely welcoming our community back to campus in the fall and seeing the students and colleagues we’ve missed so much.
When I stop to think how fast the past year has gone by, I reflect on what has also proven to be one of the longest and hardest years of our lives. With your continued support, collaboration and patience, I am confident Rider University will successfully navigate through this pandemic and become a stronger, more resilient university because of it. We are getting through this together.
President Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.