Below is a reflection from Gettysburg College parents Sue and Kevin Loney P’20 of Wilmington, Delaware.
Gettysburg College was the first school our daughter Rachel could really imagine attending. We visited for an admission open house in March of her junior year in high school. A year later, she was thrilled to be accepted. We remember Convocation as a beautiful day in August 2016 as the Class of 2020 gathered on the lawn outside of Penn Hall for the first time. We have looked forward to the bookend of that day, when the 2020 graduates would walk through the doors of Penn Hall one last time.
Instead, almost five years from our first visit, we returned to help Rachel pack up her apartment and move home, eight weeks earlier than expected. The sense of loss is palpable, both to Rachel and to us: having to leave a beloved campus too soon, unable to say proper goodbyes to faculty members and mentors, unable to hug and console roommates and best friends in person, unable to mark the rites of passage that belong to a senior year. It is a loss that is shared by so many students across the country during this unprecedented time in our history.
One of our favorite parts of Rachel’s time at Gettysburg College has been fall Family Weekends—especially the campus Civil War tours led by alumnus John Rudy ’07. Stories from the College’s earliest days are stark reminders that lives can change overnight because of circumstances beyond our control. This helps put the current situation in perspective. We trust that disappointment won’t get the last word. Trying conditions have a way of inspiring noble responses and opening unlikely doors.
So, our family is all at home now. Just like yours. There are frustrations, given the stresses this health crisis has placed on all families, but the saving grace is unexpected time together. We’ve had conversations over our dinner table that wouldn’t have happened in the pre-pandemic world when colleges were open and siblings were hundreds of miles apart. Our college senior and our college freshman (daughter Jane, University of Rochester, Class of 2023) share stories about their very different research interests. We’re settling into new routines, in many ways serving as a satellite campus, with our home simultaneously livestreaming co-curricular meetings and academic lectures. We’re seeing that work and school relationships are resilient, and that the daughters we raised are equally as resilient. It’s good to discover that classmates, professors, work colleagues, and clients are also multi-dimensional people, with the same good days and bad days we’re having as we all try to make sense of a world that changed drastically in the last month.
We hope that Rachel and, really, all of us, will recover from the setbacks of this COVID-19 spring, finding next steps that are satisfying and meaningful. We are glad to be together, but we know there may be difficult days ahead for some in our circles. So, we take it one day at a time, hoping that when we as Gettysburgians get to the other side of this pandemic, we’ll be able to look back, appreciating the ways we were able to help others, grateful for the help we ourselves received.
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By Sue and Kevin Loney P’20