As I write this letter, we are in the final months of 2020. This was a year of adjustment, challenge, loss, and in some cases, heartbreak. It started out with some of the best opportunities for employment, innovation and the fulfillment of dreams for new graduates and alumni that I have witnessed in my 26 years at Embry-Riddle. As we know, these exciting times were quickly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
At Embry-Riddle, we adjusted on the fly, transitioning classes to online and moving faculty and staff to remote work situations (see Global: Pivot Point). We turned commencement into a virtual activity and set a goal of checking in on 60,000 of our contactable alumni via phone and email. We also hosted over 150 online regional and affinity-based Talon Talks and get-togethers. Close to 1,000 Eagles attended these E-Gatherings from March to September. And, as the effects of COVID-19 endured, we created and held a week-long virtual, all-campus Homecoming celebration in October.
While some of us suffered greater losses, we were universally impacted by this crisis. Despite the challenges related to social distancing, we Eagles came together to support each other.
As Eagles, we’re known for embracing the tenets of a “universal” world. One that encourages and supports academic curiosity, equity, inclusiveness, teamwork and respect for all individuals.
Our alumni, students, faculty and staff represent a global community. And, it’s a community that looks out for its own.
Case in point: When the university launched its Eagles Care fundraising initiative to help students suffering financially from the pandemic, alumni and friends contributed nearly $180,000 (see related story).
This universal spirit of mutual support was particularly evident during the online Eagle gatherings we hosted. Alumni shared their resumes, talked about their jobs and job opportunities, offered mentorship and insight, told “corny” jokes and shared joy. One current student even brought his newborn baby girl to a gathering and spoke of his pride in becoming a parent and being an Eagle.
I encourage you to visit our events webpage (alumni.erau.edu/events) and join us for future gatherings. In addition, there are podcasts and online Talon Talks, where Eagles share their knowledge and expertise with each other.
Stay safe, look up and be ready, as we have a lot of work to do to recover from the current COVID-related crisis. But as you work, remember we are one, interconnected Eagle universe. There are more than 140,000 Embry-Riddle graduates who have been there and done that, and who are standing by to extend a wing, connect and support one another.
Forever an Eagle,
Bill Thompson (’87)