Ever, Always, Wellesley

May 18, 2020

As I write this, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Last week, we made the profoundly sad but essential decision to send students home for the rest of the academic year. On March 30—just 10 days from now—classes will resume through remote instruction, thanks to the truly heroic efforts of faculty and staff. I am so grateful for their service during this uniquely challenging time.

So much is unknown and uncertain. Yet one thing is crystal clear: the boundless strength and resilience of the Wellesley community.

I see this everywhere. Always the trailblazers, alumnae have leapt into action, with offers of housing, financial support, and so many other things. Faculty and staff work tirelessly to manage a logistical and human crisis. And amidst it all, our students come together in remarkable ways.

One of these caught the attention of the New York Times, which documented the so-called Class of COVID-19’s “fauxmencement” ceremony. One by one, seniors stepped up and shared a few words of reflection. (In lieu of diplomas, they collected flowers.) There was Hooprolling and Stepsinging, grief and celebration, beautifully captured in a March 17 photo spread.

The proceedings were especially poignant to me, as I embarked on my own Wellesley career with this red class of 2020. As a physician who has worked in public health, I was admittedly not happy to get word of this impromptu gathering, yet as Wellesley’s president, I was also deeply touched. What an extraordinary show of resourcefulness and resilience. What an extraordinary show of love for Wellesley and for each other.

That same feeling of love is palpable among our alumnae, as you embrace each other—and our students—ever more closely. “I wish these Wellesley babies could have been introduced to the alum network under better circumstances but HELLO, welcome, we ♥ you, hang in there,” tweeted Melanie Bellini ’12. At last count, almost 600 alumnae had given to Wellesley to help cover students’ moving and travel expenses. The Wellesley Students’ Aid Society was an outstanding partner, providing much-needed immediate support. Alumnae are also reaching out to older graduates living in nursing homes or otherwise at risk of feeling isolated.

I want to give a special salute to the many Wellesley alumnae on the front lines in health care and other first responders and those providing essential services. I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of you, and we look forward to hearing—and celebrating—your stories in the months to come.

In these harrowing times, our Latin motto feels piercingly resonant. Non Ministrari sed Ministrare. Not to be ministered unto, but to minister. I hope that, after this emergency, we build on this momentum.

Throughout the world, we are navigating uncharted territory. The Wellesley community is an ecosystem within that global context, and I am so proud to see the best of us coming to the fore.

This is not the first time that Wellesley has faced a devastating crisis. Strangely enough, the deadline for students to leave campus earlier this week fell on the precise anniversary of Wellesley’s 1914 College Hall Fire. On the night of March 17, 1914, students and professors were ripped from sleep by the sound of a clanging gong as flames raged around them. Once they had safely exited the burning building, students formed a human chain to rescue valuables, passing them hand to hand down the hill to the library.

Today, another human chain is taking shape. While we are physically separated, unable to touch each other, our bonds are every bit as real as the clasped-hand chain that formed beside Lake Waban a century ago. Now, as then, we join forces to protect what matters most. Now, as then, we draw together, ever, always, Wellesley.

To read the New York Times story, visit bit.ly/wellesley20.