To the Duke Community,

On Thursday, before the empty pews of Duke Chapel, I joined incoming undergraduate students for our first-ever remote convocation, a reminder that the traditions and connections that make Duke University so extraordinary have evolved, rather than disappeared, in the midst of the pandemic.

Today we mark another of those reminders: the first day of classes of this truly unprecedented fall semester.

Although the road that brought us to this day has been challenging—and at times has required adjustments to planning and expectations with our changing circumstances—we awake to this day with the same joy, gratitude, and excitement that characterizes the coming of each new academic year.

We simply could not have navigated the past few months without the support, leadership, and flexibility of our faculty, students, and staff. I am especially grateful today for the medical professionals who are keeping us healthy, for the researchers hard at work investigating possible vaccines, for the faculty who have adapted to a classroom that looks very different than ever before, for the students who have changed their plans but never their Duke spirit, and for the thousands of housekeeping, facilities, dining, transportation, and public safety staff who have been instrumental to reopening our campus safely.

The list could go on, and indeed includes contributions large and small made by each and every Duke University person over the past few months.

There is much work ahead, and no doubt we will encounter more twists and turns in the road this fall.  Yet as we join together to begin another academic year, let me say thank you for all that you have done to guide us safely through the pandemic and toward an even more extraordinary future.