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Giving Thanks

Monday, November 9

Dear Campus Community:

In a few weeks, we will conclude another semester in one of the most difficult periods in University of Memphis history. This has been a tough time for us all, with so many in our community grieving the loss of loved ones, struggling with financial challenges and adapting to an extraordinary array of personal stressors, all in the midst of heated national discord. Yet in the midst of unparalleled struggles, I have never seen greater kindness, empathy and generosity as so many in our community have stepped forward to support one another and help move our University forward. 

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to express my gratitude for the service and sacrifice of so many on our campus, particularly over the past nine months. I am grateful for all of those in our student and financial service offices that helped provide an additional $8.3M in support for our students this fall, meaning that more than 1,200 students who would have had to otherwise withdraw were able to continue their educational journeys at the UofM. I am grateful for our faculty and staff that have put in countless hours to adapt their instruction and support efforts to the unique demands of COVID-19, including continuing groundbreaking research and moving us closer to our Carnegie R1 aspirations. I am grateful for our students and for their resilience, adaptability and persistence in the face of tremendous adversity. I am grateful for our advisors, our Dean of Students office and student support services that have helped keep our students on track for graduation; this year we will reach a third consecutive year with a graduation rate over 50% and likely an all-time high of 55%. I am grateful for our physical plant, building maintenance and dining personnel that have kept our campus operating and beautiful during these trying times. I am grateful for our office support staff across campus that have kept our day-to-day business moving. I am grateful for the leadership on our campus, including our senior leadership team, our deans, our chairs and our program directors. They have been tireless in their efforts, committed in their cause and inspiring in their purpose. I am grateful for our many donors who have stepped up with much needed financial support for our students, for our infrastructure and for our future, including the largest academic gift in our history just a few weeks ago. And finally, I am grateful for the broader Memphis community, for embracing this University, partnering with us and lifting us up to help achieve our vision of excellence.

As our President’s Council members know, I have kept a list of every challenge we have faced over the past seven years, along with lessons learned from each. It has proven incredibly valuable navigating the everchanging landscape in higher education. That list is coupled with one that includes the things about our community I am grateful for, things that are uniquely Memphis. The lessons learned on that list have been simple, consistent and clear. Ours is a community that, despite points of disagreement and debate, steps up to support one another in recognition that our mission is one that improves lives, has remarkable positive impact on Memphis and makes our world a better place. And for that, I am enormously grateful.

I hope each of you are able to spend time with family and friends after the semester ends and recognize that these recent challenges and struggles have only revealed our strength and countless reasons to be optimistic about our future.  

Regards, 

President M. David Rudd