Dear members of the Saint Louis University community, 

 

On March 13, we announced that we would shift classes to online learning for the remainder of the spring semester. At that time, there were 2,222 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. SLUCare was experiencing a sudden drop in non-emergency procedures and our clinicians began to treat patients infected with the deadly virus about which little was then known.

 

The idea of returning to any in-person instruction for the fall semester felt impossible. Had we known that at the conclusion of the fall term there would be over 14 million cumulative confirmed cases in the U.S., the mere consideration of in-person instruction would have been untenable.

 

Yet here we are, having finished the fall term together, on-campus –– with many in-person classes and entirely in-person labs. Naysayers bet we would be all online by mid-September. But we — our OneSLU community — proved them wrong week after week.

 

Today, we are far more informed than we were in March, not by happenstance but because the necessary work of the University persisted. Researchers and scholars read, wrote, collaborated, published, and taught in-person and online. Clinical and medical research professionals adapted to telemedicine, learned how to better treat COVID-19 patients, and contributed to the testing of the newly approved Moderna vaccine. Staff supported our students and faculty and kept the campuses functioning on all levels both here in St. Louis and in Madrid. And students sacrificed a robust social life and followed mitigation protocols so that they could remain together learning and living in community.  

 

But we also recognize that all of this came at an extraordinary cost. We were pushed to the brink of — and at times beyond — exhaustion. At times, it felt like each of us carried the weight of the University on our backs alone. And our isolation only compounded this enormous strain. Mental, emotional and social well-being is, for so many of us, depleted. Our wells are dry.

 

But now, there is light.

 

It is there and it is shining brighter with each passing week.

 

We stepped up. We came together. We shared resources and knowledge. And we rooted for one another. We understood the ripple effect of individual actions. We provided critical care. We lived. We learned. We toiled. And we worshiped — as OneSLU.

 

We know you have many questions regarding the spring semester before us, including return-to-campus testing, any changes to our public health safeguards, availability of the approved vaccines, etc. We will share any updates in the coming weeks.

 

You can continue to expect the level of transparency that has served as a pillar to our COVID-19 response. We remain committed to soliciting your input and sharing decisions as they are made. We have been and will continue to be partners with you in this journey.

 

Saint Louis University has a 202-year history of lessons learned from overcoming insurmountable odds. We leave with you a short passage from a similar moment in history. 

 

More than 100 years ago, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, a group of Jesuits traveled to Camp Meade in Maryland to provide relief to overwhelmed chaplains. This excerpt was written in October 1918, one month before SLU’s centennial.   

 

“The epidemic passed almost as rapidly as it came. Three weeks after our arrival [to Camp Meade], the quarantine was lifted and the hospital was carrying on its normal work […].

 

“All who had passed through those days of the epidemic look back upon them as a wild dream and a nightmare. They wake to find the dream a sad reality. […] Scattered over the land hundreds of broken hearts still moan its bitter toll of dead. And if we had been in Heaven on All Saints’ Day, 1918, we would have known it was no dream.

 

“For we feel sure that as the Angel of the Apocalypse “Ascending from the rising of the sun, having the sign of the living God” summoned the elect and they come forth twelve thousands strong—a new tribe was added to the call—the tribe of America—company after company—God’s saints and our heroes—marched down the long line of Heaven, battle-scarred from Chateau-Thierry and the Argonne Forest, from the fields of Flanders and the hills of France—and last of all there came a band, they whose service was to stand and wait, the heroes who died at Meade, led by a Catholic Priest and his companion Martyrs of Charity, the nurses and doctors and orderlies who had given friend and country the great proof of love (emphasis added).

 

“We came away from Meade with the highest admiration for our army, with the utmost confidence in human nature, with a deeper love in our hearts for the faith God has given us and with a blessing on our lips for all whom we met there […].”

 

The Influenza Epidemic at Camp Meade, October 1918, in The Woodstock Letters Vol. XLVIII No I, pp. 16-17.

 

We thank each one of you. 

 

May God bless you and your families. Keep looking to the light.

 

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

President

 

Mike Lewis, Ph.D.

Interim Provost