As I write to you today, I am full of pride and gratitude for the year that we have had at Tufts. However, I acknowledge that for many in our community the effects of the pandemic continue to be far too real. Members of our community continue to be worried for family and friends affected by a surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia, parts of South America, and other areas around the world. Some Tufts students are also unable to travel back to these areas because of travel restrictions and other impediments. Tufts stands in support of anyone in our community who has been affected. The Provost’s Office has created a webpage where Tufts community members can coordinate and share information, resources and opportunities to support COVID-19 response around the world. Tufts has also extended the deadlines for exceptional summer housing. We are all thinking of you, and we are here for you.
Yesterday our Commencement speaker, Bryan Stevenson, urged us to stay hopeful. Hope, he said, is our superpower. As we look back on a year that began with the killing of George Floyd, staying hopeful has at times seemed frustratingly elusive. We have faced a pandemic, divisive politics, acts of hate and violence at home and abroad, natural disasters, and a racial reckoning that has exposed just how far our country and institutions must go before we achieve racial justice. All of this could lead to hopelessness. Yet we take inspiration from our community and remain hopeful.
The Tufts Class of 2021 gives us hope. These students have faced perhaps the most challenging environment any class at Tufts has previously faced, and they have thrived. Their vigilance adhering to the myriad safety protocols and their moral compass on issues of equity guided the way for all our students over the past year.
The courage and commitment of our front-line staff—some of whom were featured in the cover story of the latest Tufts Magazine—give us hope. Their essential jobs required them to come to campus while others were able to work remotely. They helped us get through some of the most difficult times with professionalism and devotion to the university.
Our medical and mental health staff give us hope. In some ways, this year was something for which they could never have prepared; in other ways, this is what they’ve been preparing for their entire professional careers. Their expert guidance throughout this year allowed us to return to campus safely and resume our education, research and clinical operations.
The flexibility and the creativity of our faculty give us hope. They adjusted their courses for a new environment with some students in the room and others at a distance. They mastered the technology and adjusted their pedagogy to ensure that our students had a great academic experience this past year.
The work of the Tufts researchers and their partners around the globe gives us hope. For example, the STOP Spillover team was awarded a $100 million USAID grant this year to understand the risk factors that contribute to viral spillover from animals to humans, implementing interventions at spillover points to prevent zoonotic disease, and assess risk reduction practices and policies to prevent spillover and mitigate amplification and spread of disease. In short, they are working on preventing the next pandemic.
The alumni and friends of the university give us hope. They supported students and the university in countless ways, including providing funds that allowed us to continue to meet 100 percent of demonstrated undergraduate financial need in a year when so many were facing financial uncertainty.
These are just six examples of the hopefulness that our community inspires. I could provide countless more. And I’m sure you can as well.
Despite all the challenges and loss, this year our community has demonstrated the strength we have when we rise together with a common mission and a common purpose. I want to thank each of you for inspiring me and giving me hope. I am so proud, today and always, to lead this remarkable institution.
Best wishes for a restful and rejuvenating summer,