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Dear campus community,
Good Saturday morning. After last night’s storms, today’s forecast of sunny and warm skies is certainly welcome.
Today marks the anniversary of the EF-3 tornado that plowed through Ruston, destroying portions of our campus and our city, and killing a Grambling State University student and her son. I’ll never forget that night and the next day – not simply because of the incredible damage the storm caused, but also because of what it reinforced about our Tech Family.
I’ve completed two television interviews this week focused on the anniversary, and I thank the stations and reporters for allowing me to tell the story of our recovery and resilience. As I talked to those journalists, I was reminded of when the sun rose that Friday morning and finally being able to see the damage the storm caused. But more than that, I remembered my feelings of pride in our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends as they came together to help our University and one another.
Less than 30 minutes after the tornado passed last year, I received an email from a student asking if classes were canceled because he wanted to spend the day helping his friends who had experienced major damage. As I drove around campus to assess damage that night, I saw students gathering to start picking up debris. After sunrise, I saw faculty, staff, and students gathering with chainsaws to clear trees from the houses of colleagues. I visited with many of you who welcomed others into your homes as a place to stay after their homes were destroyed, and others of you who provided food and comfort to those in need. I saw many other incredible acts of kindness, generosity, and encouragement that you provided to those in need over the days and weeks that followed.
The story of last year’s storm is different from this year’s crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, the tornado was a force that came quickly and was over, leaving destruction for us to clean up and rebuilding to do. The coronavirus is a storm no less intense, and it’s certainly causing damage, but we feel more out of control. We feel more of a sense of uncertainty about how this crisis will play out.
But, like the tornado, the COVID-19 crisis has taught all of us about the strength and resilience of the Tech Family. We see the care our faculty and staff show for our students and one another as they work to ensure our students continue to pursue their academic goals. We see excellence as our essential employees report each day, ensuring campus continues to be safe and functional through the crisis. We see the commitment and pride our graduating students have when they talk about coming back to campus in August for commencement ceremonies.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
COVID-19, like the 2019 tornado, has allowed us all to seize opportunity. It’s allowed us to reframe how we answer challenges, and I am proud of how our Tech Family has responded. It has allowed us to reassess what is truly important in our work and in our daily lives.
As I write this closure, I see the sun rising over the Tech campus for a new day, and it reminds me of the opportunities we have today and each day in the future to make a difference. Thank you all for the dedicated work you’ve done and the work you will continue to do as we recover from this crisis and become an even stronger institution for our community, state, and nation.