Professors from across campus express optimism for Class of 2020’s future

The coronavirus stifled in-person sendoffs, but Norwich University’s faculty and student leaders wouldn’t be denied their goodbyes. In a video montage, professors from across campus waved goodbye amid bursts of blessings and occasional bon mots.

Nursing Director Paulette Thabault saluted nursing graduates, many of whom are already working on health care’s front lines. She encouraged them to take time to reflect and decompress. Mathematics professor Cathy Frey congratulated graduates and reminded them to write back; campus wants to hear success stories.

“You’re at a great point in your lives, where you have tools, you have opportunities, you have a fresh look at the problems of the world. I’m confident you’ll go solve some of them.” Charles White, Norwich University engineering professor

Engineering professor Charles White spoke about Sir Isaac Newton, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University’s Trinity College in August 1665, three months before the Great Plague forced the school’s shutdown. (Sound familiar?)

Newton persevered, White said, going home to Lincolnshire to develop his theories of optics and gravitation and invent calculus. Norwich students, who’ve developed skills including mathematics affinity, inductive reasoning, expository writing, leadership, are poised to thrive, he said.

“You’re at a great point in your lives, where you have tools, you have opportunities, you have a fresh look at the problems of the world,” he said. “I’m confident you’ll go solve some of them.”

Lisa Brucken, a Center for Student Success adviser, and her husband, history professor Rowland Brucken, sent well wishes from behind a maroon Norwich University flag.

“This is the first class in Norwich University history to have to take all their classes online in the last two months because of a global pandemic,” Rowland Brucken said. “Good job with that.”

Criminal justice professor Elizabeth Gurian acknowledged the unusual future facing the Class of 2020, in a world racked by pandemic and bristling with social justice unrest.

But, she said, the new graduates are ready.

“We, your faculty, are given hope by the promise of your generation,” she said, “knowing you will implement all that you’ve learned to lead the way for criminal justice reform and constructive dialogue.”

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