Looking ahead with hope

To the Temple community:

As we prepare to close out 2020, I know many of you feel the less said about this year, the better. There is no doubt that 2020 has been demanding on us all. Students, faculty and staff are justifiably weary of the restrictions we are living under and that keep us apart from each other. I get it. I know all of us who gain energy from engaging on campus have found this semester to be especially challenging.

And yet, as I look back on the last nine months, and then ahead to 2021, I am filled with hope and renewed resolve.

Look at everything this community has achieved: We came together to abide by previously unheard of guidelines to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, monitor our health and endlessly wash our hands. We’ve found new ways to teach and learn, mastered previously unknown technology, and looked out for one another. Along the way, we’ve grown accustomed to the scent of hand sanitizer and found “favorite” masks that have kept us covered, if not always comfortable.

Most importantly, your commitment has assured that the university continues to make good on its mission. Take a moment and think about all we’ve accomplished. Our dedicated faculty has continued to offer a quality education to Temple students living in Philadelphia and around the nation. Our equally dedicated students are making progress toward their degrees and remaining focused on their studies. All of this has been taking place in a daily existence that has been emotionally draining and physically demanding.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of you all.

Earlier, I said that I was filled with hope and new resolve. Your ongoing commitment to Temple, plus our plans for the spring semester, are responsible for that optimism.

And I know I speak on behalf of the entire Temple University family when I say how proud we all are of the dedicated and truly heroic health professionals in our health system, in our Student and Employee Health Services, and in the clinics of our schools and colleges for their unbelievably hard work and commitment to our students, employees, patients and everyone they served throughout these past months. They all have earned our eternal gratitude for how they have helped us and continue to help us all through this pandemic.

Today, students will receive details about our robust testing plans that start in January. We’ve built those plans with confidence in our ability to test and get results back from thousands of students, faculty and staff each week. This achievement is due to the extraordinary efforts of Lewis Katz School of Medicine, under the leadership of Interim Dean John M. Daly and his talented team. They’ve developed a new laboratory that allows us to rely on Temple resources to test Temple community members. Few universities in this nation have a similar arrangement and I can’t thank everyone involved enough for their work.

We are also fortunate to have some of the greatest leaders in the effort to fight COVID-19 at Temple University Hospital. Researchers have been relentless in working on treatments to fight those who have developed symptoms of the disease. Others are equally aggressive in creating and testing vaccines to ensure a defense against contracting COVID-19. Taken together, their work has been nothing short of miraculous.

This is an opportunity to remind everyone that our plans are to delay the start of our spring semester until Jan. 19, thereby providing sufficient time for self-quarantining by students prior to the return to campus in the new year In addition, there will be no spring break for 2021. This will reduce travel that could otherwise spread the COVID-19 disease. We also ask for your continued cooperation with the four public health pillars (mask wearing, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and regular health monitoring) that have been so effective in keeping the virus in check on our campus.

In the last few weeks, we’ve watched as new vaccines have started rolling out across the country. It was an emotional moment when the front-line workers at Temple University Hospital got their first doses, a moment captured by this story from The Washington Post. Many of those quoted in the story, such as Temple Health CEO Michael A. Young, Chief Medical Officer Tony S. Reed and dozens of others, have been great advisors to the university as we have gone through the fall and put our plans together for the spring. They know the fight against COVID-19 is still a daily struggle, but they also are aware there is light ahead at the end of a long tunnel.

I’m pleased to report that the Temple University healthcare team who have worked so hard to test and care for our students, faculty and staff have also received their vaccinations. That team, under the extraordinary leadership of Mark Denys, senior director of Health Services, deserves our thanks for their exhaustive efforts. Mark and his team know the spring semester will bring challenges, but after watching them through the last nine months, I can tell you that there is no challenge they have not faced with unrelenting determination.

We expect to hear additional information from the city as more vaccine doses become available. We will keep you informed about plans for making vaccines available to additional populations.

2020 is coming to an end. I eagerly anticipate the hope that 2021 brings to us all. As we break for the winter recess, my wife Ellie and I wish all of you an opportunity to relax, recharge and recommit to ensuring a successful spring semester.

And as always, thank you for all you’ve done for Temple University. 


Richard M. Englert