As the rate of coronavirus cases declines nationally and we move toward what will hopefully be a less restrictive phase of the pandemic, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past two years and express personal gratitude to the Ashland community for your support during what has been trying times.
My presidency began in November 2019. Only four months later, we found ourselves grappling with an unprecedented global crisis, having to cancel in-person classes and send students home in mid-March as we shifted to remote operations for the remainder of the term. I regret that my first two years as Northland’s fifteenth president were devoted to exceptional challenges, rather than engaging with the wider Ashland community. My overriding responsibility for the safety of our students, faculty, and staff was my primary concern, motivating daily – at times even hourly – adjustments to existing protocols.
Without doubt, the pandemic has shown how interdependent this region is, proving how heavily we rely on one another to help navigate crises.
Northland College alumnus Dr. Andy Matheus at Main Street Clinic has served as the College’s chief medical officer for a number of years. As in the past, Dr. Matheus has been an exceptional resource, helping us secure COVID tests, PPE, assessing health risks, and influencing the protocols that have kept our campus open and the wider community safe. In tandem with college leadership and our COVID Planning and Response Team, Dr. Matheus’ expertise has allowed the College to flourish during the pandemic. At the same time, Ashland City Council, Mayor Debra Lewis, and Memorial Medical Center have been invaluable partners. I remain deeply indebted to fellow community leaders and take pride in our mutual achievements.
As the pandemic progresses and hopefully recedes, we will carry on by modifying our approaches and procedures, where appropriate. We continue to operate our on-site testing center, while maintaining isolation and quarantine spaces for students in need. Our level of preparedness has allowed us to weather the recent omicron spike and Northland remains vigilant and resilient. Our focus is on supporting students, as they struggle with the emotional and existential trials posed by the virus, while finding appropriate avenues to sustain the aspirations of our dedicated faculty and staff.
Despite the toll that the challenges have taken, we are committed to maintaining our campus and serving the wider Ashland community. Collectively, we miss gathering for in-person events that once united the campus and Ashland communities, such as concerts, religious services, lectures, conferences, theatrical performances, lunches, dinners, and conversations, but most decidedly, we have foregone our annual Fall Festival with Northland alumni. Like everyone, I yearn to return to a day when we can be a collective once again. Until then, and on behalf of a grateful college, let me express deep and abiding appreciation for your encouragement.