July 29, 2020

To William Paterson Alumni:

I hope that you are finding ways to enjoy the summer while staying safe. As you well know, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone around the world and right here in our own communities. I am proud that so many William Paterson alumni are saving lives and keeping us safe on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.
Most every person and organization has been personally affected somehow by the virus and its far-reaching economic and social disruptions. That is certainly true of William Paterson University. As you know, like colleges, universities, and K-12 schools everywhere, William Paterson moved to remote learning back in March and conducted the remainder of the academic year that way.  
In the intervening months, however, New Jersey has made great progress against the virus, and we are now planning for a safe and productive return to in-person teaching and learning on campus for the coming semester. I want to share with you some of those plans and the ways in which your alma mater will look different in the fall, as well as some of the other ways we are adapting to the social distancing requirements of life during a pandemic.
  • The Fall 2020 Semester will begin on Monday, August 24th, one week earlier than originally scheduled, and end at the Thanksgiving holiday break. Avoiding the return to campus of students during what is traditionally the peak of the flu season will help us better contain its spread, as well as that of the coronavirus. We will implement what’s known as a hy-flex model, in which most courses are taught both in-person and online. This, together with a campus-wide regimen of social distancing protocols, including the required wearing of face coverings, will allow us to deliver an effective education for our students, while keeping them and our entire community safe.
  • Fall intercollegiate sports have had their seasons postponed as a result of a recent decision by the New Jersey Athletic Conference President’s Council, of which I am a member. This was at once a very easy decision and a very difficult one. Easy, because it is clearly in the best interests of the health and safety of all the communities of our member institutions. Difficult, because field hockey, football, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball all mean a lot to the student-athletes and coaches, as well as to the fans, including so many dedicated alumni, who support our Pioneers. We hope to give these programs the opportunity to compete in the spring, and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus when competition resumes and it is safe to host fans.
  • Thanks to the many of you who have been among the 436 generous supporters of the Student Emergency Fund, which has to date raised more than $96,000 to meet the critical needs of students directly impacted by the pandemic. These funds can make the difference in a student’s being able to continue working toward their William Paterson degree. Today’s students will be the graduates of tomorrow who will help our great State rebuild. If you are able, please consider making a gift to support those with the greatest need.
  • Finally, I am pleased to share the news that we will be hosting a series of safe, socially-distanced, in-person Commencement ceremonies during the week of August 10. As you may know, a virtual ceremony was held during the traditional time in May, and it was a wonderful celebration of our graduates. But nothing can take the place of an in-person event, especially for our many first-generation students, who worked so hard and whose families sacrificed so much. So, we committed from the beginning to giving them the opportunity to walk across the stage and accept their degree in front of at least some family and friends. State guidelines now allow us to hold a series of smaller events, and we will be sharing news and photos from them on our website, so keep an eye out.
Through all the many challenges the pandemic has created on campus and in our communities, I have been awed by the strength and spirit of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in supporting one another and the University. While we won’t be out of the woods for a while, I know that the William Paterson community will continue to help lead the way. 
Thank you for your support of this great University, and I look forward to welcoming you back to campus for a game, a concert, or some other gathering as soon as we are able. Until then, please take advantage of some of the great opportunities to engage with fellow alumni online, such as the virtual Book Club, which can be found on the alumni website . Take care, and stay in touch.
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD