August 14: A Message from SJU Interim President McAllister

Dear Johnnies,

I am so excited to welcome you back to campus. These are difficult times, but we will work together to have an extraordinary year on campus, a year to truly remember. A few observations on safety, the linchpin to success, follow.

In October 1915, Explorer Ernest Shackleton watched as the Antarctic ice crushed his ship Endurance.  Several months later Shackleton and five companions traveled 900 miles in an open boat. He climbed and traversed a glacier, and they all experienced enormous deprivation and physical pain to reach assistance. In August 1916, Shackleton accompanied a ship to rescue the 22 men left behind eleven months earlier. All 28 men of the Endurance survived. They were all safe.

Our current COVID challenge is certainly not comparable to the physical struggle and obvious danger of Shackleton and his men. Even Minnesota as cold as it gets, is not as cold as Antarctica.   However, there are lessons we can draw upon: the meaning of brotherhood; the importance of being able to depend on others; and the power of personal commitment, as offered by Shackleton. Everyone was safe. 

As we embark on a new academic year, living and learning together, we draw inspiration from Shackleton and his crew. At Saint John’s we are a brotherhood, we can and do depend on one another, and we understand the importance of commitments. Our commitment now is to keep everyone safe. 

For this semester Saint John’s and Saint Benedict’s are emphasizing a number of safety measures. These include:

  • Wearing masks in all public places, indoors and outdoors;
  • Keeping an appropriate distance from others;
  • Taking your temperature every day and heeding higher than normal readings;
  • Sign and take seriously the Personal Responsibility Statement.

These are the sine qua non, the absolute necessary. We are calling on all our students to go beyond these base steps. We are calling on each Johnnie to keep everyone safe. 

The news reports suggest COVID is not generally much of a threat to young people.  And young people often see themselves as invincible. So young people may be willing to take more risks. 

But the lady who serves you lunch may have an elderly parent at home, and COVID may be a life or death situation. Perhaps the guy down the hall has a younger sister with a respiratory illness. The professor who mentors so many students may have a husband with diabetes. What you do affects many others, most of whom you may not know or even know about. 

We are calling on our Johnnies to be heroic. To make a life sustaining commitment. To sacrifice.

We ask that you avoid unsafe places and large crowds in which social distancing is impossible, like bars and house parties. If you leave campus, please be aware you always risk bringing the COVID virus back. Act appropriately. 

We expect each of you to commit to keep everyone safe.

Next week, I will tell you about the new ideas on campus to keep our students engaged, challenged, and competitive. You will like these new things. 

Eugene McAllister, Ph.D.

Interim President

Saint John's University