It was a sign of the times.
As he began his first day as the ninth president of Caldwell University, Matthew Whelan did not give a big speech to the staff, he released a video message. And he did not have a big welcoming party — the staff gave him a surprise drive-by parade.
Whelan took it all in — and did so while wearing a face covering. Adjusting to the times is what Whelan, the first male lay president in the Catholic Dominican university’s history, promised to do on Day One.
Amid the realities of the pandemic and economic inequities, Whelan said he is eager to take on the fight.
“I fully believe in the importance of who we are and the critical and lasting impact of what we do,” he said. “The times in which we live are exactly why the world needs us now.
“Students, it needs you right now. It needs your creativity, your understanding, your passion and your engagement. You are our future and I could not be prouder of you.”
Whelan stressed his commitment to the university’s mission.
“I am privileged to have been chosen to live out the Catholic Dominican legacy put in place by our founders, the Sisters of St. Dominic, and carried forward by my eight predecessors,” he said.
And he noted that the Caldwell University community is dedicated to living out its core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence.
“These values inform who we are and everything we do,” he said. “In fact, the Catholic Dominican mission informs us that every person is made in the image and likeness of God and that everyone must be treated with dignity and respect. Now, more than ever, we need to live out this calling.”
In planning for the fall semester, Whelan said the university is focused on serving students, faculty and staff in a safe environment.
“Know that our faculty and staff have been stellar supporters in our efforts, and we are committed to providing them with a safe environment in which to teach and support the transformative learning which occurs here every day,” he said.
Whelan said a campuswide team has been and continues to meet regularly to develop the restart plan recently mandated by the state of New Jersey, which addresses numerous areas including instruction, residence halls, dining and more.
“Our goal is to bring you back in the fall, subject to many of the sanitizing practices and social distancing regulations still in effect, while continuing to offer the option of distance learning for those persons or those classes which require that option,” he said. “We are hoping to see many of you here in the fall, and, while the circumstances will no doubt be different, the focus on each of you as individuals will not.”
Whelan thanked the faculty and staff.
“I am privileged to join the team and will work with you as we journey with our students as they pursue their education and degrees,” he said.
And he expressed the university’s enormous gratitude to alumni, donors, friends and community partners.
“Thank you for your longtime and generous support and commitment to Caldwell,” he said. “Your time, treasure and talent are critical to all we do to support the students and the communities in which we live, work, learn and serve. Caldwell needs you now more than ever.”