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With Gratitude

To the University community,

As we get ready to take a well-deserved break, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for helping us make it through this unique—and uniquely challenging—semester.  I shared a version of this message in the latest edition of UVA Weekly, and am adapting it below to make sure it reaches as many people as possible.

First, to our students—both those who came to Grounds and those who stayed home this semester.  College is hard enough under normal circumstances let alone during a pandemic, but you took the extra burden in stride.  Aside from a few notable and unfortunate slips, you did what you had to do to stay safe.  You looked out for one another.  You dealt with testing, isolation, and Zoom fatigue.  And on top of all that, many of you also managed to get involved in extracurricular activities, serve the community, do research, and have some fun along the way.  Every generation has its defining challenge, and this pandemic will likely be yours.  But you rose to meet it again and again—which gives me enormous hope for both your future and ours.

To our faculty and deans.  Who would have guessed that moving all your classes online in a week last spring was just the beginning?  Nothing about this semester was easy—whether you were teaching in-person or online.  But I’ve been incredibly impressed not only by your resilience and creativity but by your genuine concern for our students and their wellbeing.  Thank you for helping us continue to deliver on our teaching and research missions despite all of the challenges of the semester—and for continuing to shed light on both enduring questions and the new ones we’ve faced this year.

To our incredible staff.  Thank you to the front line workers who cleaned classrooms and residence halls, maintained our HVAC systems, staffed dining halls, and installed signs and barriers across Grounds.  To Procurement for getting us the supplies we needed, including PPE, and the Emergency Management team for helping coordinate our response.  To the care teams who made sure that even when our students were isolated, they never felt alone.  And to the staff at Student Health, Employee Health, and the Student Activities Building who helped us ramp up testing and provide treatment—including the team at the saliva testing lab that hasn’t had a break in months.  

Thank you to the members of the Implementation Working Group, led by Liz Magill and J.J. Davis, who met every day this semester to troubleshoot problems, and to the Contingency Planning Group, who prepared for every possible scenario.  To the mighty team in Student Affairs—including Pat Lampkin, who might actually get to retire one of these days—thank you for going above and beyond for our students.  And deep thanks to the RAs, without whom none of this would have been possible.  

Thank you to the Advancement staff who navigated both a pandemic and a tough economy to help us fund our priorities; the members of the Office of Engagement who found new ways to connect; and the tech support teams across the University who kept everything up and running. To the people whose work lives were turned upside down by the pandemic—from parking and transportation, to the library staff, to IM/Rec and everyone else who pitched in where their specific skills and extra hands were needed.  And to HR for identifying those needs and coordinating new assignments.

Thank you to Dr. Craig Kent and all of the team members at the Health System—the epidemiologists, doctors, nurses, lab techs, and staff—who helped us try to understand this virus and offer world-class treatment to those fighting it, while at the same time treating and caring for the hundreds of non-COVID patients each day.  And a special thanks to Dr. Mitch Rosner and Dr. Costi Sifri for their deep knowledge and steady leadership, as well as the local health district for their partnership.  

Thank you to the student-athletes, coaches, and staff in the Athletics Department who kicked their already impressive discipline up a notch to keep themselves and their opponents safe.  To the alumni who helped us expand testing, advance COVID-related research, and help students who needed financial assistance.  To the members of the Board of Visitors who have been key partners and supported us through some tough decisions.  To the parents and families who trusted us with their students at a difficult and uncertain time.  To everyone who has shared their talents as part of Arts on the Hill; the ambassadors who have reminded us to wear masks and keep our distance; and the students who worked on the #YouVA campaign.  And to the members of the Charlottesville community who had faith in us and held us accountable—as well as everyone who has volunteered their time to help those in need, including by offering community testing.  Thank you all.

If I have left anyone off, please accept my apology and know that I appreciate everything you have done and will continue to do.  There really are too many people to thank—which is a reflection of the fact that this pandemic has demanded more of all of us and that our success has only been possible because everyone, everywhere did their part.  For that I will always be grateful.

I hope all of you have an opportunity to rest and relax over the holidays.  And I have no doubt that when we come back together in the new year, we will be ready to face a new set of challenges—with confidence in each other; faith in our abilities; and a commitment, as always, to do the best we can for this University that we love.  

Best,

Jim

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