A Year Like No Other

Dear Emory Community,

Last week, on a spectacular Monday morning, thousands of Emory graduates, family members, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni filled Emory’s historic Quad to celebrate the Class of 2022. It was my first Commencement on the Quad after a three-year absence due to the pandemic. This was not only a celebration of remarkable student achievement—the speakers, the awards, the bagpipers, and cheering families—this year’s gathering also held a far deeper significance.

In Tyler Perry’s insightful and inspirational address, he told the Class of 2022 not to be afraid of hard work. He described the years of hardship he endured before reaching his goals—I’m sure our graduates could relate. 

And seeing them all, in caps and gowns, I was reminded of the resilience they showed to get to this point—achieving a long-held dream in the face of unimaginable challenges. I also thought of the Emory faculty and staff who mentored and supported them and kept our mission going, and our university open and running, with energy and enthusiasm; the doctors, nurses, and Emory Healthcare staff who worked tirelessly to serve our community during an unimaginable public health crisis; and our alumni, friends, and committed donors who gave of their time and resources to benefit every area of the university. 

Emory’s purpose is to create and share knowledge, and, through education and research, to empower bold possibilities—discoveries that we can’t yet imagine, ideas that inspire progress, and breakthroughs for a better world. In my time at Emory, I’ve seen all of this come to life in so many ways: 

  • I saw it in the faces of dedicated public health faculty and students, who gathered earlier this year at the Rollins School of Public Health to learn about a landmark $100 million gift from the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation—the largest in the school’s history—for faculty excellence and student flourishing.
  • I see it in the visionary plans of leaders who will join Emory this summer, including Gareth James, the next dean of the Goizueta Business School; Daniele Fallin, who will follow in the footsteps of the legendary James Curran as dean of the Rollins School of Public Health; and Valeda Dent, the inaugural vice provost of libraries and museum.
  • It is reflected in our commitment to access and affordability, and, starting this fall, Emory will replace need-based loans with grants and scholarships for domestic undergraduate students. This is a profound investment in the future of our students, and it will reduce debt and help pave the way for their lives after graduation.
  • I see it in the enthusiasm of alumni I’ve been meeting across the country during the past year—listening to their stories, concerns, and dreams for Emory, while talking about how the goals of the 2O36 campaign will shape the future of our university.
  • That same optimism and energy also abounds in the students I see every day—whether dropping by a symphony rehearsal, attending a celebration of student leadership, meeting the next generation of healers at Emory Match Day, or a sidewalk conversation on Wonderful Wednesday. 

Today, I’m looking across a Quad that is quiet and peaceful, the excitement of Commencement a recent memory, as the university takes a few moments to catch its breath. But it is just a short break before we prepare for the next academic year, as we strive every day to achieve our promise and full potential. 

For Emory graduates, the conclusion of their time on campus also marks a beginning, as each alumnus—with heart and ambition—now will set out on a journey of accomplishment, service, impact, and discovery that will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to see all they achieve. 


Gregory L. Fenves

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