Moving forward

President Dennis M. Hanno at the 2021 commencement

Commencement always has been an important time to celebrate the transition of students graduating and moving on to the next phase of their lives.

This year we had to reimagine the ceremony and celebration—along with so many other programs and traditions. However, for this important occasion, through the amazing efforts of staff, faculty and students, we got back a little bit of the in-person experience that we all have been craving.

In addition to offering a virtual ceremony that allowed guests from all over the world, conditions locally provided us the opportunity to hold Commencement as five small in-person ceremonies on Chapel Field with safety precautions in place. It was great to see loved ones cheering on the students again.

As I stood onstage—on a day that promised rain but delivered only sunshine—and I greeted each graduate, I was filled with admiration, gratitude and optimism.

I admire how our seniors of the past two years rose to the challenge of finishing up their Wheaton journey strong in the face of the continuing evolution of the unexpected. I’m eternally grateful for the staff and faculty who continue to demonstrate the innovative spirit that is Wheaton’s hallmark. And, I’m optimistic for the emerging post-pandemic future so beautifully marked by this occasion and our slow return to the student experience we treasure.

The fall semester has opened with a return to face-to-face learning in the classroom, full residence halls and the on-campus experiences that build community and make Wheaton so special. However, this pandemic has certainly taught us that things can change rapidly. We continue to monitor conditions almost minute by minute and are prepared to adjust as needed to ensure the health and safety of our community.

I’m optimistic and excited about all of us coming back together. We have continued to make progress despite all the challenges we have faced and are well-positioned to move forward in major ways—not only in the short term but also in the long run.

There is much to support this optimism. For example, this fall’s entering class was one of the strongest in the history of the college—both in size and in academic quality. Fundraising is at historic levels, thanks to the unwavering generosity of our alumni, friends and families. Our endowment, built up over time to strengthen the college, is at an all-time high. Our innovative Compass curriculum and new academic programs have launched with much success. And a $30 million new academic discovery center project is well underway, continuing our focus on providing the best campus environment possible for our students.

All of this validates the strength of
what Wheaton has to offer in good as well as challenging times.

Despite all of our progress, we need to recognize that “getting back to normal” or “the way things used to be” isn’t enough. The pandemic and so many other events of the last several months have illuminated areas of inequity and social injustice that we must seek to address. I’m proud to see Wheaton meeting these challenges head-on and seeking to “get back to better.”

Your partnership and support in recent months have meant so much and will be crucial in continuing to move Wheaton forward. Thank you!