We made it. You made it.

We made it YOU made it You are coming into the homestretch of an academic year that defies any description I can offer Unprecedented Unimaginable Challenging Difficult Surreal None of these words does justice to the disruption of our lives and of this university by the COVID-19 pandemic In the years ahead, as we try to explain what it was like to those who follow us, I truly believe that it will come down to this: “You just had to be there.” This is a shared and universal experience that will bond together every member of this university family for the rest of our lives For our faculty, instructors and staff it will be the year when you, in the space of a few weeks, reinvented and reimagined a university that was 152 years in the making For our continuing undergraduate and graduate students, I hope this will be the year when you truly came to believe that there is NO challenge you will not be ready to face when you leave here And for those of you graduating, you will forever be the Illinois class who earned your degrees in spite of – and in defiance of – this pandemic So, in the year when “you just had to be there,” I am so very, very proud that I got to be here – with the students, staff and faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Our university showed the world that you do not have to be in the same place to come together And you reminded everyone that being part of the Illinois family means taking care of one another when it matters most I hope everyone will take a few minutes on Saturday, May 16 at noon, to watch our virtual Commencement celebration And for those earning your degrees, I promise you we WILL hold your Commencement Ceremony in person when it is safe to do so For those of you who will continue your Illinois journey, we expect to announce our fall semester decisions in mid-June So, please watch your e-mail and our campus social media this summer Good luck to you all in these final days of the semester Be careful Be safe And please remember, while we might have to keep our distance for a while longer, this year will forever connect all of us