April 23, 2020

Letter from President Wiewel, April 23

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s words…

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s words, spoken during World War II, as I consider where we are today, nearing the end of the first phase of this bewildering period.

Signs are all around. Spring semester online classes in the law school have ended and are in the final stretch in the Graduate School and the College of Arts and Sciences. This week we filmed some of the speeches that will be streamed at the CAS commencement ceremony on May 9. We have two senior class speakers this year–a first, I believe–and their remarks have a heightened poignancy.

But we’ve all begun to realize that life will not return to normal so quickly or easily. Until a vaccine is developed and made widely available, we will have to maintain forms of social distancing, avoid large gatherings, and anticipate second and third waves of infection.

What does this mean for Lewis & Clark? We fully expect to be open and holding in-person classes this fall. Our typically small classes lend themselves well to spreading people out. We may need to have fewer people living together in our student housing. And probably we will need to keep the size of crowds at events down. This will not be as difficult for us when compared with enormous Division I schools or those in dense urban areas. The location of our beautiful campus, accessible to but at a slight remove from the bustle of downtown, is helpful. We will be together again.

As this first phase of disruption draws to a close, we should all feel a sense of relief. And, I hope, we will rejoice in some way too. This has not only been, again in Churchill’s words, “blood, tears, toil, and sweat.” We should remember the opportunities for grace and beauty that a stilled life gives us. Some of you wrote about these in response to my letter from last week:

  • A parent who enjoys having her daughter close–at the dining room table–and overhearing her classes in French, Spanish, and English.
  • Many who relish the lack of a commute, which leaves more time for cooking, exercise, and enjoying the company of (and acquiring new) pets.
  • Some who returned to hobbies: photography, painting, and gardening, to name a few.
  • Those who express a deeper appreciation of what it means to hug one’s parents.

These moments of wonder and beauty do not negate the real pain and anger that was also expressed. I know that some of our students and families are angry because we did not refund as much money as they’d hoped for, or because tuition will increase in spite of the hardship they are enduring. Fortunately we have emergency funds available to help students with extra expenses caused by the pandemic. We will soon send out more information about both the federal program and the fund made possible by our generous donors.

We are making hard choices to ensure that we can offer as good an education as possible, and to protect the long-term future of Lewis & Clark. Many staff, and all of the senior leadership, are taking partial furloughs for the next few months to save the jobs of as many of our community as possible.

We are making our way. We can’t quite see the end yet, but it is out there, and I hope this crisis will in some ways transform us for the better. I will leave you with a note I received from John Halvorson, Class of 1964.

Thank you for sharing your supportive thoughts. I am reminded of the Columbus Day storm in 1962, where our beautiful campus and all of Palatine Hill was hit so hard. It became a very special time during which we lived without electricity, cooked with gas and charcoal for everyone, kept and reused our silverware, helped neighbors clean up and repair, and played guitars and sang together in dark dorms in the evenings. The experience became part of our development as citizens of the world community. I imagine (and hope) that students and faculty are to experience some form of togetherness and participation in how we respond to community and political challenges.

Stay well, best wishes during these trying times.

Indeed, please stay well.


Wim Wiewel