May. 11, 2020

Dear Connecticut College Alumnae and Alumni,

As spring arrives on our empty campus, and as we anticipate a virtual celebration of the class of 2020 on May 17, I cannot help but recall the noise, exuberance, and joy this season usually brings. Our beautiful Tempel Green, which welcomes hundreds of families to its generous lawn each year for commencement and reunion, will see no chairs, no tents, no pomp and circumstance. It will instead be keeping a silent vigil until the moment we can gather again safely as a community.

It has now been two months since we asked our students, faculty, and staff to leave campus and work from home in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Governors in the northeast and around the country followed suit. Higher education, in fact, led the way in taking actions designed to ensure the health and safety of our communities.

There is no question that these efforts have helped to reduce rates of infection and loss of life in our region and beyond. But the actions have also taken a serious financial toll. The U.S. economy has contracted more than any time since the Great Depression. Unemployment is the highest in our history. While some states have begun to reopen, the economic damage will persist, just as the virus will continue to alter the ways we live and work.

In short, it will be a long road to recovery. For Connecticut College, that means many things. It means sustaining our students and our workforce during reduced operations. It means making up for endowment losses caused by a volatile stock market. It means returning millions of dollars in room and board to those whose residential experience was cut short. It means addressing increased levels of financial need among new and returning students. Most importantly, it means continuing to deal with a highly contagious virus that is likely to thwart our ability to return to business as usual for some time.

Still, we remain optimistic. Rates of infection are low in our corner of Connecticut. Last week, I sent a letter to current and prospective students expressing our intention to enable a healthy and safe start of school in the fall. The Governor just released guidelines for reopening all institutions of higher education in the state. My excellent senior team is now working with faculty, staff, and students to design a plan that will allow us to fulfill our academic mission next year and sustain the College into the future. In the midst of all this, our incoming class — the class of 2024 — continues to show strong interest in the unique education Connecticut College has to offer. With our deadline extended to June 1, commitments continue to roll in and we are looking forward to welcoming a strong first-year class. 

And then, of course, there is you — our wonderful alumnae and alumni. You, too, give us cause for optimism, through the many ways you help: in advancing our efforts with online education; in sharing your expertise in public health and infectious diseases; in supporting members of our senior class in career conversations; in lessening the burden of our collective quarantine through the Camels Helping Camels initiative; and in donating compassionately on the recent global day of giving on May 5. I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you who have offered your support.

The truth is: we need you now more than ever. So I ask you to continue answering the call. You will soon be receiving information about our forthcoming 48-Hour Giving Challenge, which starts June 1st. I hope that, if you are able, you will again help us rise to the challenge so that, in this unprecedented time, Connecticut College will continue to fulfill its mission of educating students to put the liberal arts into action.

In the meantime, look for an invitation to our new online community, “The CONNector,” offering ways to network with fellow Camels and provide mentorship opportunities to our most recent graduates. And if you are longing to learn more about what is happening on our virtual campus, I invite you to visit our new webpage Connect with Conn, which aggregates news, tweets, videos and more.

Yes, there are many challenges ahead but I am confident that, through your generosity and the goodwill of the entire Camel family, we will meet them head on. Let me thank you, then, for your love and your loyalty to Connecticut College, while I send my very best wishes for your own health and strength.


Katherine Bergeron's Signature

Katherine Bergeron