After a year like no other, we wanted to take a moment to thank the Southwestern University community—our students, parents, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends around the globe—for your resiliency, creativity, and loyalty. This University stood strong and successfully navigated an unprecedented pandemic. Approximately 70% of Southwestern classes took place on campus and in person. Just when it felt like the worst was behind us, our mettle was tested once again by the ice storm and days-long power outages that gripped Texas in mid-February, causing extensive damage to our facilities and beautiful campus. Once again, we pulled together with grit and determination, and we persevered.

We approach the end of our academic year with gratitude and anticipation. For 181 years, Texas’s first university has heralded each graduating class with a very special ceremony. On May 8, 2021, we will continue this tradition and celebrate in person the accomplishments of two graduating classes: the class of 2020 and the class of 2021. Their achievements are considerable and noteworthy: both classes include Phi Beta Kappa inductees, Fulbright and Kemper scholars, Newman civic fellows, and a record number of athletic All-Americans. Our speaker at the two commencement ceremonies is corporate leader, attorney, philanthropist, and musician Paula Boggs.

Our newly minted graduates will join the ranks of thousands of alumni who have entrusted their education to Southwestern. Our course of study ensures that all students can graduate in four years, and within 10 months of graduation, 86% of our students are accepted to graduate school or enter the workforce.

When our athletic conferences (ASC and SCAC) cancelled fall and winter competition, our students and coaches worked hard to train and prepare for the spring season. They underwent rigorous COVID-19 testing and followed stringent health protocols. For the first time in Southwestern’s history, all men’s and women’s athletic teams competed in a single semester, and we honored our graduating student-athletes in meaningful ways.

In addition to lauding the accomplishments of our students and our ability to stay the course through difficult times, we also wish to thank and recognize the important work done by the campus community in creating a five-year tactical plan that will commence July 1, 2021. The Board of Trustees approved this exciting and ambitious plan that will increase student financial aid; add new student, staff, and faculty diversity and professional student advisors; lead to the construction of a new mixed-use first-year residence hall; increase campus amenities, including recreational spaces and food venues for students; and provide for additional opportunities for high-impact experiences, such as undergraduate research, study abroad, paid internships, and increasing community engagement. Our 700-acre campus in Georgetown, Texas, provides us with space to learn, teach, and live. It also serves as a gateway to the energy and innovation of Austin as well as the tranquil beauty of the Texas Hill Country. Our focus on the environment and sustainability has earned Southwestern designation as a Bee Campus USA and recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus Higher Education program.

As we look forward to the fall, Southwestern remains the #1 liberal-arts university in Texas and one of the most selective and diverse liberal-arts institutions in the state. We are grateful to President Laura E. Skandera Trombley, our first woman president, and to all our community members for their steadfast loyalty and commitment that have enabled Southwestern not just to survive but to thrive during this most challenging year.