United in Hope and Gratitude

“I am immensely proud of all the ways our community has united this past year. None of this has been easy.”

By Sean Decatur

Over the past week, our inboxes and news feeds have been flooded with reflections on a year of COVID-19. I share the desire to mark the moment, personally and as Kenyon’s president, and yet so much has already been said. Perhaps the most appropriate thing to say is the simplest: Thank you.

I am immensely proud of all the ways our community has united this past year, and grateful for everyone who responded to the challenge of COVID-19 with a clear-eyed spirit of collaboration, cooperation, empathy and grace. We have faced our loss, made great sacrifices, and prioritized the health and wellbeing of our community over our individual desires. None of this has been easy.

Many of us stepped into new roles, or found ourselves in roles with newly high stakes, suddenly confronting and rethinking all the details that make our college operate. This includes our students, and especially our student leaders, who have provided valuable input through Student Council, Campus Senate, affinity groups and our COVID-19 working groups. These contributions have moved the College forward and helped us shape policies and practices as we adjusted to the rhythms of the year. In this COVID era when things have not been “business as usual,” your service and guidance have been especially important to the ways we have successfully navigated this past year.

Faculty have given new meaning to the value of a Kenyon education, and demonstrated time and time again the intelligence and warmth that is a hallmark of our community. Staff have pulled together in truly remarkable ways to keep the College running smoothly and to provide our students with as “normal” an experience as possible. Alumni and families have continued to lift our community through the trust they have placed in us and the support they have given, at a time when we have needed it most. All of this, even as many of us balance caregiving responsibilities, health challenges and other unseen burdens.

One year ago, I could not have imagined that we would still be physically distanced today, unable to revel as usual in all the traditional joys that a Kenyon spring brings. But the finish line is in sight. As President Biden said in his address last week, “We are bound together by the loss and the pain of the days that have gone by. We're also bound together by the hope and the possibilities of the days in front of us.” 

Optimistic as we may be, we must remain vigilant in continuing the public health practices that have served us so well over this past year. We cannot let our guard down now, nor can we ease the accelerator on our work to make Kenyon a more anti-racist institution. Thank you, all, for helping to make this year of learning and living possible.