Speeches & Commentary

2020-2021 end of year reflections

Greetings members of the Washington University community,

This week marks the end of classes for most of our schools, and in the coming weeks, our faculty and students will close out this academic term with reading week and finals. As Chancellor, I can say personally that the end of each academic year is often bittersweet — with mixed feelings of gratitude, relief, and reflection on another chapter that is ending.

Indeed, it’s been a long and challenging year, one filled with great change, adjustment, and hardship. I am disheartened this term is coming to an end, only because it is one that, once again, seemed to rip away a student experience and list of time-honored traditions for which this community is known.

As I mentioned earlier, I am also relieved we are here, not because it marks an end, but more so because we are starting to see so many new beginnings. As more and more people continue to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, it signals exciting new hope for this summer and the road ahead.

For example, some of you will see extended family members for the first time since last March. Some of you will embark on your first travels in more than a year. Some of you will eat inside a restaurant for the very first time since the pandemic began. Some of you will return to leisurely activities that brought you joy. Some of you will have more options for child care and work-life balance. Some of you will both start and close chapters of your life that you didn’t have the chance to do properly. And some of you will begin new initiatives, research endeavors, and career opportunities.

All of this said, many of us — myself included — continue to grieve the circumstances associated with the pandemic along with the countless tragedies facing our nation and world. Others of us may still face uncertainty about what’s to come. For these reasons, I acknowledge that feelings of relief may still be fleeting. As we approach the weeks and months ahead, I hope we can find ways to continue to name and address the challenges we face while simultaneously finding joy in the things that fulfill and sustain us.

During this time, I am also filled with immense gratitude due to the extraordinary nature of this community and the people who comprise it. Every day, I feel incredibly lucky to work alongside talented and passionate individuals who care so deeply about this place, our region, and our mission to improve lives. As we close out this academic chapter, I know that this work will continue. We have a number of exciting initiatives and programs both starting and moving ahead, and I look forward to seeing how we as a community will continue to increase our momentum in academic distinction, educational access, and our role and impact In St. Louis and for St. Louis.

I acknowledge that each of you has unique plans for this summer. Whether you are returning home, staying here in St. Louis, working, or taking time off — I trust that you can take moments to rest and reflect on the many ways you contribute to this distinctive community.

Thank you, as always, for everything you do, and warm wishes on a summer of new beginnings.