Message from Dawn Russell, President and Vice-Chancellor

I know that you have been inundated with messages recently, but I do want to take a moment to share some observations.   


The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for all of us. The dislocation has been significant—from the cancellation of in-person classes with professors, and the loss of contact with fellow students or faculty colleagues, to the postponement of events, including Spring Convocation. The result, though, has been a great coming together, even over distances, as our community has risen to meet the new demands that each day presents.   


I would like to speak to students first.  


I know that you have experienced great stress and confusion. As a graduate of St. Thomas, I had the pleasure of experiencing the things you are missing today. I understand your disappointment in not being able to complete your courses in person or celebrate the end of term with your classmates. Postponing Spring Convocation was very difficult because I know that it is an important personal milestone. Our faculty and staff have watched you grow over the years and we were looking forward to celebrating your accomplishments with your friends and family. 


Yet, these disappointments serve to remind us all of how unique our St. Thomas community is, of how important our education is, and of how much the personal connections we have forged with one another mean to us. They also remind us of the many contributions which support our individual and collective success. Over the past two weeks, I have been inspired by the many examples of members of our community pitching in to help one another and by the collective determination to see this through. We will apply the same determination to finding appropriate ways to mark the milestones that we are temporarily missing as a result of the need to cancel ceremonies and events involving large gatherings. In the meantime, stay safe and keep in touch with one another and with us.


For our faculty and staff, I have been touched by your patience, diligence, and the seriousness with which you are approaching this situation. Everyone has stepped forward to do their job and to ask what they can do to help others. It has been an inspiring collective response. And from the messages we have received, I know that students appreciate your efforts to deliver the remainder of the term so they can earn their credits and credentials.  


For everyone, there will be much more work to do in the coming days and weeks. I know that we can overcome any challenge as long as we keep the best interests of our students, faculty, and staff at the forefront.   


Students and alumni always talk about the community spirit as being the best part of STU. That community spirit remains strong and is evident in the efforts of all to meet the challenges which the current circumstances present.  


Please continue to reach out to each other and to practice self-care and care for others.  Stay focused on your teaching and learning. Check your e-mails and social media accounts regularly for updates and share tips on how to get through this together. And please do not hesitate to write me at to share any feedback.  


With deepest gratitude and appreciation, 


Dawn Russell, BA’77
President and Vice-Chancellor