I hope you and your family are safe and healthy during this challenging time. As the St. John’s University community continues to experience the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I write to update you on how St. John’s has responded to this public health crisis, how St. John’s personnel are assisting with the local response, and ways for you to become involved.
In the early days of the pandemic, the University moved quickly to bring back to the United States students from our study abroad sites in Italy, France, and Ireland. When the virus incidence in New York started to rise, St. John’s immediately transitioned to a virtual learning and remote workforce situation. Our employees have gone above and beyond to quickly implement virtual learning and remote working so that we could continue our academic and business operations. I want to commend our students, faculty, staff, and administrators for their patience, understanding, and hard work in adjusting to this unprecedented situation.
Last month, when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo extended the stay-at-home directives across New York State, senior leaders at the University had to make difficult decisions about numerous on-campus events. Annual events at St. John’s – including undergraduate and graduate commencement exercises, Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend and Summer Session classes – have all been modified or cancelled. The thought of a traditional academic year which does not culminate with an in-person commencement is now an unfortunate reality. The University remains committed to honoring the achievements of the Class of 2020 virtually, and we will have in-person events when circumstances permit. For more information on our planned virtual recognition of the Class of 2020, please visit:
There is no doubt that college campuses in the fall semester will be different as a result of COVID-19. Last week, I announced the formation of a cross-functional task force – the Return to Campus Task Force (RCTF) – to proactively prepare for the safe and gradual return of employees and students to campus. The work of the RCTF will be guided by federal, state, and local guidelines and recommended best practices, and the group’s first priority will be the safety of our students and employees. The RCTF is composed of administrators and faculty and their important work will initially focus on the following five key areas: social distancing strategies, health and safety measures, outbreak response, communication planning, and mental health counseling.
As we face the uncertainty of these trying times, I am reminded of the inherent goodness that is found and fostered within the St. John’s community. I am especially grateful for the generosity of alumni, employees, benefactors, and Student Government, Inc. who quickly helped to raise almost $290,000 in support of the Emergency Fund for St. John’s Students. These funds were made available even before the federal CARES Act was announced, and were distributed by the Division of Student Affairs through our Basic Needs Form to currently enrolled students facing financial hardship. Many of our students still face ongoing financial difficulties, so, if you are interested in supporting the Emergency Fund, please visit www.stjohns.edu/emergency.
I am also proud of the volunteer work of our employees and students who used their professional training and skills to assist emergency health-care providers. And, faculty from all of our science departments and administrators gathered much needed personal protection equipment from University classroom supplies to give to our partners at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital.
We stand in solidarity with the members of our community who have been impacted by this crisis – the students, faculty, employees, and alumni who lost their lives as well as the families who grieve for them, those who are afflicted by the disease, and those who are suffering financial hardship due to this crisis. We offer our prayers and support for them that they might find comfort and relief from their difficulties.
St. John’s Catholic and Vincentian mission will continue to guide us during this unprecedented crisis. Over the course of the past 150 years, our University has endured many trying times. We have emerged from these challenges stronger and steadfast in our mission to help those most in need. I have no doubt that by working together, St. John’s will do the same once more.
Please be assured of our prayers for you and your family
Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President
St. John's News Checking in with Coach Lou Carnesecca