April 02, 2020

Letter from President Wiewel, April 2

Campus is beautiful this time of year. The magnolia, crabapple, and daffodils are all blooming…

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

Campus is beautiful this time of year. The magnolia, crabapple, and daffodils are all blooming. The sweet smell of daphnes fills the air. During sunny spells, Mount Hood’s snow-capped peak is stunning as ever. It breaks my heart that so many of us are not there to see it and to enjoy spring at Lewis & Clark.

A wonderful article by Lori Gottlieb last week in the New York Times advises us to acknowledge the grief we’re all feeling right now, to accept that the losses are real, and not to minimize them by pointing out that things could be worse.

With that insight in mind, I’ll start: I feel a real sense of loss as I think of the beauty and excitement of the last month of the academic year that we are missing. I mourn for the concerts and recitals not heard, the symposia canceled, the athletics contests not played, the celebrations not held, and the joy and friendship not experienced—especially for all those scheduled to graduate. But we will celebrate you all: We will hold virtual ceremonies for the CAS and Graduate School this spring and look forward to exploring opportunities for in-person events later. The Law School is already planning for an in-person ceremony this fall. So stay tuned for more.

But Gottlieb also points out that this is a particularly difficult time because we don’t know how long it will last. How much more calamity will we suffer? But the truth is, ‘catastrophizing’ is not helpful. Rather it’s better to focus on the positives of your current reality: Are you proud of your new mastery of digital communication? Are you enjoying newfound closeness with family? Do you have time to learn a new skill or return to an old hobby? For me: yes, yes, and not yet. I hope each of you can also find the bright spots in your own lives.

As we return from whatever bit of spring break we may have had, faculty, staff, and students are settling into a temporary ‘new normal.’ Online classes are proceeding somewhat more smoothly, now that we’ve all had more time to prepare and adapt. Approximately 170 students still live on campus, because going home is not feasible for them. Bon Appétit is providing carry-out meals, as no congregating is allowed. Campus is very quiet, since all those who are able to and whose physical presence is not critical are working from home. A few community members walk their dogs—which is okay as long as they keep social distance.

The law school faculty already held an online meeting, and CAS faculty will do so next week. Admissions offices in all three schools are hard at work to bring in next year’s class. Because life does go on.

Recently we received an award of $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support community partnerships that address social suffering. This four-year project is led by Professor of Psychology Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell and will strengthen our partnerships with four local community organizations: Write Around Portland, Northwest Narrative Medicine Collaborative, Roosevelt High School, and Columbia River Correctional Facility.

Tuesday we received the great news that two students have been awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarships! Congratulations to Jordan Gonzalez BA ’21 and Natalie Klee BA ’21 on winning the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering in the United States.

That same day our Law School’s Center for Animal Law Studies and Environmental Law Program announced they are establishing a new International Wildlife Law Clinic to advance the protection of animals across the globe.

And so our work continues. I remain grateful for and inspired by the deep caring and compassion of our community. It is, as I’ve said before, unlike anything I’ve experienced in my career in higher education.

Thank you for all you do as a part of this amazing community.


Wim Wiewel