This is the first of many bi-weekly messages I plan to share with you over the course of my interim presidency. By sharing some of my thoughts, I hope to provide an opportunity for all of us to take a step back and reflect on ourselves and our lives during these stressful, and sometimes overwhelming, times.
As I’ve been preparing for my tenure as interim president, I have been reflecting on what it will take for us to emerge better from the pandemic and social unrest across the country. I keep coming back to one word: resilience. The ability to overcome adverse situations, to rebound from hardship, and to adapt in order to move forward are what make us resilient.
I have been at the helm of a university under very challenging circumstances before—Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans seven years into my 16-year tenure as Tulane University’s president—and a key takeaway from that experience is that in order to not just survive but to learn and grow, one has to be resilient. When bad things happen, resilience allows us to not see ourselves as victims but instead focus on what we can control and take charge.
Most likely, all of us have experienced adversity of some kind in our lives and have had to find a new path forward before. My resilience stems from numerous experiences. Hurricane Katrina was a defining one, but I have also been able to draw strength and confidence from my years in the military in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Recalling my struggle with dyslexia earlier in my life has been helpful as well. The pain of repeatedly falling short of expectations as a child was traumatic, but the self-esteem and perseverance I gained from overcoming my challenges and finding success have been invaluable. If there ever was a time to appreciate and tap into our resilience, it is now.
I have seen resilience everywhere around me during my first few weeks as interim president—whether it was at Homecoming or my meetings with the various schools and student organizations—and when I think about the combined resilience within our community, anything seems possible.
Keep thinking, and take care,
Case Western Reserve University