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Year End Success Letter from President Ottosson

As we near the end of the academic year, it always causes me to reflect on what the past year has meant to the Penn family. At no other time have I pondered that as much as this year. What a year it has been!

Just a year ago we postponed our normal commencement proceedings and most of our students finished the semester from home. As a leadership team, we were embroiled in contemplating if we could return to campus safely in the fall and provide a somewhat normal experience for our students.

I remember wondering if we would ever be the same and if others would be able to experience Penn like I did almost 40 years ago as a student. Today, I think about what an amazing job our “family” did to ensure a safe return to campus – in our classrooms, in competition and in the community. Our students have persevered and completed arguably the most amazing and perplexing year in the chronicles of education! This year will be discussed in the annuals of history for decades to come. In Penn’s history, their actions will be discussed, referenced, and modeled as a positive way to navigate turbulent times.

We joined together in ways that many other campuses could only hope for. No one could outrun this virus, but Penn demonstrated the ability to “live life” through the virus. Throughout Penn’s history, our faculty and staff have cared for our students in meaningful ways. This year we reached out in ways that that had never been imagined. Faculty taught in dual modality to ensure students who needed to quarantine could continue to learn. Staff extended and modeled behavior so students would continue to belong. We learned that our students were determined to be on campus to learn, compete, and grow—to do all that safely and with care for each other. Penn succeeded this year because our student body, faculty and staff cared enough to follow suggested precautions. Student behavior has instilled pride in all of us who call this our home.

While this year was anything but normal, it was successful. It also sowed the seeds of continued achievement for Penn. When students arrive on campus in the fall, they will have new labs for science and nursing in the Penn Activity Center. The north wing of Eltse Hall will be totally renovated to allow for more housing on campus.

While these physical changes are exciting, to me the most exciting prospect of fall is welcoming students to campus. We anticipate a full return to the Penn experience. An experience that will allow us to gather more robustly, to see each other’s faces, to engage in informal conversation that has long been our hallmark. In short, we anticipate a return to the traditional Penn experience. The availability of vaccines will aid in this endeavor. Please have a great summer but remain safe. I believe we will appreciate the small but important things that make Penn special even more.

Sincerely,

John Ottosson, President