President Mark A. Heckler: “Terra Nova” Community Message

To: Students, Faculty, and Staff
Posted: March 15, 2020 at 11:15 a.m.

Dear Valpo Community,

There is a theme that runs through the soundtrack of the musical, “Hamilton:” the world turned upside-down. As I listen to that musical motif, I wonder what it might have been like in those early days during and immediately after the American Revolution, when everyone found themselves in unchartered territory, making the best decisions for the nation and for themselves based on information that was changing by the hour and by the day. Today, we all have some sense of what it is like to navigate our way through a world turned upside-down.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created great uncertainty for all of us. So much of what we take for granted looks different through the lens of this unprecedented moment. Yet, we must remember that, while our immediate circumstances require us to modify our behavior and make some difficult choices, the foundation upon which Valparaiso University is built and the ethos that informs this community has not changed. The character and integrity of the Valpo community. Our shared values. Our faith. Our sense of family. Our commitment to leadership, service, and generosity. Our passion for creating a better society and world. These fundamental characteristics of who we are together remain the same. Our individual resolve may be tested in this moment, but I believe that this community, and each of us as individuals, will emerge from this experience more resilient and adaptable than where we find ourselves today, better able to navigate the uncharted territory ahead. 

As you know, Valparaiso University has made a number of difficult decisions over the past week in response to COVID-19, such as moving all classes to remote delivery and cancelling athletic competitions, concerts, fraternity and sorority events, conferences, and other gatherings. Many people, especially our seniors, will not have the kinds of spring semester experiences they were anticipating. Valpo’s residential students and their families have been faced with difficult decisions about whether or not to return to campus at this time. Students, faculty, and staff have and will make sacrifices and experience disappointment. Yet, these sacrifices are acts of leadership, service, and generosity — they help reduce the spread of the virus, protect the most vulnerable among us, and serve to keep our friends, family, and community safer.

Navigating new territory can be unsettling. At times it can be frightening. It is okay to acknowledge these feelings. I feel them, too. In times like these, I am reminded that we can place our hope and trust in God’s promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us. Grounded in this hope, the lessons we learn through this trial, the strength we gain personally, the bonds we forge as a community, facing adversity resolutely and determined to succeed, — will strengthen us. 

I am deeply grateful to each of you for your cooperation and for your flexibility to shift quickly to alternative modes of learning, teaching, and working. Most especially, I thank the dedicated members of our faculty who have been working countless hours to convert their courses to distance delivery while maintaining high academic standards and our indefatigable staff who are ensuring that we take the appropriate precautions to support and protect the University community and surrounding areas in this difficult time. These are examples of what we mean when we talk about total commitment to students’ full potential, even when facing significant challenges.

We all continue to have unanswered questions and recognize the environment is quite dynamic. Many of your University-specific questions are addressed on Valpo’s coronavirus website, which is updated regularly as changes occur. Valpo will maintain ongoing communications and social media channels as we have more news to report.

Let us navigate this terrain together with care for and patience with one another, remembering that we are part of a community dedicated to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Although this moment may feel dark, we are not alone. There will be brighter days ahead, and the Valpo family will do its part  to make that day come to pass as soon as possible. In Luce Tua Videmus Lucem — “In Thy Light We See Light.” 

Be safe. Stay healthy. Be well.

Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.
President
Vaparaiso University