Letter to the Class of 2020

May 14, 2020

Dear Marywood Class of 2020,

For the past several weeks, I have been thinking about writing to you. The reason for my hesitation is that I don't know exactly how to say what I'm thinking and feeling. I've heard from so many of you, followed you on social media, and watched you from a distance. It's fair to say my heart is breaking and longing for what would have been this week and this weekend. Last week was the end of a semester and the beginning of what would have been a very exciting time, a time for making memories and the culmination of semesters of hard work during your time here at Marywood.

Yes, there are questions you have that I am going to try to answer in this communication. There are also some thoughts I want to share.

Next week, you will be receiving your caps, gowns, diplomas, cords, and other items pertaining to your graduation. These items are being prepared by some of Marywood's personnel and will be mailed to you when all the pieces are gathered and packaged. We would have mailed them to you sooner, but the PA Department of Education does not allow us to convey diplomas before the date we have recorded with them as your graduation date. I know you will be happy to receive them; please keep them in a safe place for the graduation ceremony later this summer.

Yes, we will be having a Graduation ceremony for you. It appears that social gathering in the arena will still not be possible in August; therefore, we are planning something special for you on campus, keeping in mind all physical distancing requirements and safety regulations. We are determined to make it a great day for you, and we know you will be happy with what we are planning. More details will be sent to you as soon as they are finalized, but please save the date we originally communicated to you, August 15, 2020, and please plan to be here with us! Also, Father Elston, our university chaplain, will livestream your Baccalaureate Liturgy from our beautiful Chapel on the day before graduation for you, your parents, and your families.

Some of you are also worried about retrieving your belongings from the residence halls. Very soon we will be setting up a process that is safe for you to return to campus to clear out your rooms. We have received word from the state that it is okay for us to do this. Stay tuned for more specific information.

As I conclude this note, allow me to share some reflections that have been part of my thinking during these last months of your Marywood education. While I was becoming very sad thinking about you and what you have lost, you have figured out how to make the most of a very unsettling situation. This event will have a lasting effect on your lives. In the years to come, you will look back on it as a defining moment, not just the time you weren't able to finish your last semester and graduate from Marywood University, but the time that changed the course of your life and the lives of those all around you.

I remember when most of you came to Marywood in the summer of 2016. You arrived for Freshmen Orientation just a few weeks after I began my tenure as President. During these four years, I have watched you grow (some of you were still scrawny little kids back then) and develop into women and men of strong character, who possess wonderful traits and excellent professional skills. I couldn’t wait to give you your diplomas and congratulate you personally for your accomplishments these four years.

Even a few months ago, we never could have imagined how the events that occurred during your last semester at Marywood would have changed all of that. It would be easy to conclude that you have been robbed of memories, good times, and happy moments with your friends and families. It would be easier to get stuck in and paralyzed by those thoughts. I'm proud that you didn't.

As I conclude this letter, allow me to tell you what I envision for you. As I look back upon this time, these days in particular, I will never forget you. You are the Graduating Class of 2020, forever changed, forever formed, forever held in my heart as a group of creative, courageous, and compassionate people for our time, ready to meet whatever the future may bring. I think you are unstoppable. I know you are resilient. I believe the world is waiting for what you have to offer.

This morning I read this quote by author Roy T. Bennett: "Don't be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart." Your hearts were filled with passion and dreams when you first came to Marywood. No pandemic, nor anything else that might prevent you from the graduation ceremony you imagined, can take your dreams away from you. They are yours and nothing will stand in the way of your fulfilling them. There is no class like the Marywood University Class of 2020.

The world is waiting for people who will care, who will work hard to change unfair structures, who will reach out to cure, and serve, and love. Who are those people? The world is waiting for YOU.

Someday in August, I hope to have a virtual call with as many of you as possible. It will be close to your new Graduation Date. Between now and then, know that I send your diplomas by the power vested in me by the State of Pennsylvania and the Board of Trustees. You have earned them. I'll see you in August. In the meantime, have a great summer and know that you are always a Pacer.

Congratulations!

Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D. President