Dear members of the King’s Community,
At the conclusion of this long year, I send you a short message to mark its end and to anticipate the better year to come. Whatever this year has thrown at us, it has also brought us together in new ways, strengthened relationships, and united us in our dedication to our students and our educational and communal missions.
The experience of online learning in pandemic conditions has been a difficult one for our students and faculty alike. With the full support of the whole College, they have together worked wonders to instill the learning in community ethos that defines a King’s education, as have our colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the rest of Dalhousie. There are real bright spots to celebrate in what has been achieved in overcoming limitations, avoiding problems, and developing and recognizing new possibilities. But none of this changes the reality that the term has been a very difficult one for students particularly, or the reality that our students have struggled when all their learning is online and their lives have been so constrained by their admirable adherence with the public health measures that have made Halifax one of the COVID 19 safest cities in the world.
There remains a long road ahead. What has worked well so far—and there is much that has—will be continued, even as everyone at King’s and Dalhousie works diligently and in collaboration to make the coming term a better one. Beyond hoping that vaccines make a return to some level of in-person learning and community in the next academic year possible, there is expanding resolve to do everything we can to make it so to the full extent possible. In doing so, we will of course give priority to everyone’s health and safety, our necessary alignments with Dalhousie, and the opportunities available to us with our new capacity and facilities for high quality online learning. This is our version of the light at the end of the tunnel we hear so much about this holiday season.
The support we have received from our alumni, parents, and friends this year has been touching and inspiring. Causes such as our student relief fund, residence renewal, our food security project in partnership with Dalhousie, and this year’s annual appeal—have immensely benefited from your commitment to King’s, our students, and, for many of you, your memories of King’s. We recognize this spirit of generosity flows amid personally challenging times, where compelling causes and needs abound. King’s and our students have been lifted by your generosity.
During this pause between terms, for the first time, we have a significant number of residence students staying with us over the holidays. The Alumni Association—with important contributions from faculty, staff, and parents—has rallied to create “bags of love” for them, and the dons who are here to support them under the guiding hand of Dean of Students, Katie Merwin. Our facilities team have lovingly placed magical white lights in the trees around the Quad … their loveliness is inspiring talk about their possible permanence. With necessary health and safety measures in place, the Gym will be open, events are planned for the Manning Room, outings will be arranged, and the Chapel will be supporting resident students. Our custodians, Prince Hall team, security staff, and Facilities will all be working through the holidays as needed to ensure our students and dons are cared for as they care for each other. Everyone, as they have done all year, is doing their very best to support our students—near and far.
There are also many day students from beyond Halifax who will be spending the holidays in their Halifax homes. In January, students returning from beyond the Atlantic Bubble will be self-isolating as online classes resume. Unlike in August, residence students in this situation will be self-isolating in the community due to the presence in residence of those who will not be self-isolating. As best we can, we will be supporting all these students, supplementing the efforts of the King’s Day Students Society. To do that, Dean Merwin is assembling teams of faculty and staff who are able to lend support to her small but mighty student services team.
While all this has our attention, we are very conscious of the greater challenges you may face than we currently do in Halifax. We want you to know that we are thinking of you, our extended King’s family, with our deepest affection.
With gratitude for those who have continued to support the Chapel Choir and our choral scholarships through this year where singing together has only been intermittently possible, I am pleased to share a new video that the choir has just released. Unable to record the ‘distanced’ concert without audience that they had planned before Halifax’s most recent round of stricter COVID restrictions, they made a compilation video, The Twelve Years of Christmas: A King’s Christmas 2008 – 2019, which we hope will bring you joy over the holiday.
To all of you in the King’s community, whatever you may be celebrating, whoever you are with, whoever you are missing, we want you to know we cherish you and wish you a healthy and safe holiday. There are better days ahead. May we all rejoice in the coming of 2021.