The following letter originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the Freeing Minds campaign impact report.
With the spring semester winding to a close, we find ourselves in the unusual position of assessing the past few months from the vantage point of a computer screen. Stuck behind doors that are too often closed, we miss the human contact and closeness that normally characterize campus life and the deep, meaningful discussions that occur around a seminar table.
We search, like so many others, for inspiration, for a reassuring answer to the question: is this what the future holds?
In some ways the feeling of uncertainty is even more pronounced at St. John’s, as we place so much value on our small communities. Even though we can happily report that the essence of the St. John’s experience has remained wonderfully, beautifully alive, with spirited conversation flowing across a digital landscape, we yearn to get back to in-person, on-campus learning.
Our students, who felt the ground give way beneath their feet, have been buoyed by a community that would not let them fall. As soon as it became clear that in-person classes would be suspended, the support structures we have built together sprang into action and remained on high alert. The semester might have ended in physical isolation, but students and faculty forged connections and continued their work together, displaying the creativity, perseverance and problem-solving attributes we like to think of as central parts of what it means to be a Johnnie.
There is other good news as well. Our fall admissions figures have been strong on both campuses, with initial deposits that handily beat expectations, contrary to national trends. The support of our alumni and friends has enabled us to better share our story, and prospective students are signaling their interest.
Now more than ever, we must ensure that this momentum does not wane. It is entirely possible that the pandemic will prove to be a defining moment for the generation that is now coming of age. This is not something we can control. What we can control is whether Freeing Minds will be a defining moment for St. John’s and for our students.
You give us confidence that this will be the case. After all, you are the reason that this crisis did not catch us unprepared, and when it hit full force, it did not find us fragile. Because of your outpouring of support for our new philanthropy-driven financial model, we are stronger than we have been in years. And you are ultimately the reason that, come what may, the Program can still enchant and inspire, perplex and provoke.
More than anything else, that is why the future remains so bright for St. John’s and the students we are privileged to serve.
President, Santa Fe