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Wilkes Deals With a Global Pandemic and Maintains a Sense of Community

Senior communication studies Sarah Matarella’s tap shoes were still sitting in her room in University Towers at the end of April, awaiting her return. When Wilkes University first transitioned to remote learning on March 13 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Matarella and other students had expected to return on April 6. 

It was not to be. 

Within days, the number of Americans falling ill from the virus ballooned. The Wilkes campus closed, remote classes were held for the rest of the semester to ensure health and safety and most University employees worked from home. Facilities staff, some food service workers and campus police remained on campus to carry out some essential functions. Interim President Paul Adams ’77 MS ’82continued to travel from McCole House on South River Street to his office in Weckesser Hall, on many days the only figure walking on Fenner Quadrangle.

Like the rest of America, the family of Colonels was dealing with an unprecedented situation in spring 2020. Wilkes had endured floods and threats of floods from the nearby Susquehanna River, but never before had stopped holding classes on campus in the middle of a semester because of a health threat. On these pages, members of the University community talk about how Wilkes continued holding classes remotely, recruited a freshman class and maintained the family feeling that is the basis of the University’s culture. They share their own stories of life in quarantine. Through it all, Colonels remained connected. In Zoom classes and meetings, on social media and in music videos and text messages, they reminded one another what it means to be part of the Wilkes family.

Faculty, staff, students and alumni took to heart a message from interim president Adams: “Please remember that none of us has left Wilkes, we are just circling in a larger orbit around it.”

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