Dear Members of the Campus Community,
As I prepare to leave UMass Dartmouth at the end of this week, I wish to share with you a few parting thoughts.
It has been an honor to serve the UMassD community for the past three years. Together, we have accomplished much. I reflect fondly on our achievements.
These are uniquely challenging times for all of us—UMass Dartmouth, the higher education sector, our nation, and our world. Students, families, and all employees face the stress and uncertainty of an unprecedented health emergency and commensurate economic downturn. Unpredictability has become the “normal” during COVID-19.
While I will have left prior to the start of the semester, I feel confident leaving you in good stead—as a dedicated community of learners and innovators, adapting, learning as you go, and not losing sight of the educational mission while protecting the safety of the community. I commend the exceptional work of the 100+ member cross-divisional Pandemic Emergency Report Team (PERT) that crafted the Fall 2020 Re-Opening Plan. I am proud of the team’s work to provide a safe path forward for the fall semester to ensure the best possible UMassD experience for new and returning students, and an optimal workplace for faculty and staff, in a time of unprecedented disruption.
For all 2020 graduates, while I cannot be there in person, know that I will be with you in spirit for the University’s 120th Commencement in October. Amidst formidable challenges, you persevered over your last semester. I am proud of you—your resilience in attaining your educational, professional, and personal goals is impressive.
To students, I leave you with four simple thoughts: Think about how you want to be remembered, have gratitude and fortitude, enjoy the journey, and touch someone’s life. Please never forget we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. On a planet with over seven billion people, if you are educated, you are privileged. You are blessed, and you have a social responsibility to leave the world better than you found it. How do you want to be remembered? How will you fulfill your purpose?
To the broader community, never forget that higher education exists to serve students. Students have inspired me throughout my career, and to them, I owe a debt of gratitude. As the generation now called to transform the world in a socially just and positive way, I know they will excel at that challenge. Support them in that effort.
I am reminded of what I learned from my mother, which I have taken to heart. She said, “We must all have a sense of purpose and leave this place better than we found it.” We were all put on this planet for a purpose that is bigger than ourselves. If we discover this purpose and fulfill it, we can leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it, and that will be our legacy.
Lastly, be grateful for your circumstances. No matter what life confronts you with, there is always someone else worse off than you, so be grateful. Have gratitude, seek to find the good in every situation, and listen to the better angels. Understand that you must have fortitude because sometimes life is hard. Have the determination to never give up and never give in. If you operate from a paradigm of being grateful, it will give you courage and endurance to deal with the most difficult times.
I thank the entire UMassD community for the journey we embarked upon over the past three years. It was an honor, and I cherish the memories. While I will be following UMassD’s ongoing evolution from elsewhere, I will do so with pride for all we have achieved together. I wish you all the best in the future.
Robert E. Johnson PhD