Friday Week: May 22

Author: Andy Fuller

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

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A view from inside the control room of the Rex and Alice A. Martin Media Center on Sunday for the first remote conferral ceremony ever. (Photo: Matt Cashore, University of Notre Dame)

by Paul J. Browne

Farewell and Welcome

This has been a momentous week for Notre Dame beginning with an online degree conferral ceremony at which Father Jenkins, Dr. Burish, the deans of our schools and colleges, and John J. Brennan, chair of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees, presided.  In his charge to the graduates, Father Jenkins said, in part:

“My charge to you is simply this:  Make this story, the story you may not have intended to write, a tale of resilience and hope, of friendship and solidarity, and of the kind of courage and persistence that conquers despair and disappointment.  Make it, too, a story of generosity and goodness.  Whatever your hardships, someone else is suffering much more.  Be a sister or brother to them.  In your family life, your professional life, and your spiritual life, every day of your life, never forget that your charge as a Notre Dame graduate is to be a force for good.  As graduates of the class of 2020, you will always have a special place in my heart, for you have had to overcome special challenges.”  Link to the conferral ceremony.

The Return

The following day, Monday, Father Jenkins announced the news that many were waiting for—that Notre Dame plans to reopen for the fall semester the week of August 10.  He unveiled a new configuration that eliminated the customary fall break and consolidated the semester so students would leave for home before Thanksgiving and not return until sometime in January. 

“Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed,” Father Jenkins said.  “We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”  Read his letter here.

The Guidelines

On Tuesday, Vice President for Campus Safety and University Operations Mike Seamon notified faculty and staff that beginning Thursday, May 21:

  • Faculty and staff should take their temperature daily before reporting to work on campus.  If you have a temperature above 100.4 degrees, please do not come to campus.  If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Skibins, senior director of emergency management ( 
  • If you have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19—fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, or headache—OR if you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, please stay home and call your health care provider or the Wellness Center (574-634-9355).  They can assess whether you should self-quarantine.  Please let your manager know that you are unable to report to work as expected.
  • The University expects many employees to continue to work from home if possible.

He also emphasized the following public health practices:

  • Practice good hygiene at all times:  Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available.
  • Faculty and staff working on campus should practice physical distancing—maintaining a minimum of 6 feet of distance whenever possible.
  • Members of the University community and guests on campus must carry masks at all times. 
  • Masks must be worn by all faculty and staff working on campus whenever physical distancing is not possible or may be difficult to maintain. 
  • Those working on campus will be provided cloth masks by their supervisors.  If you need a mask, please contact your supervisor or Tracy Skibins, senior director of emergency management ( or 574-631-8344).
  • Certain buildings may have signage indicating that masks are required at all times—for example, in the residence halls during move-out. Rules on those signs must be observed even when maintaining appropriate physical distance.
  • Campus visitors can buy masks at the University’s Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore and at the Morris Inn.
  • Those attending public Masses in the Basilica must wear a mask and practice physical distancing before, during, and after Mass, in accordance with the requirements of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.   

Seamon also described protocols for enhanced cleaning, elevators and stairs, restrooms and drinking fountains, and general hygiene.  Full letter here.

The Media

There was intense media focus in the announcement, with The New York Times describing Notre Dame as “becoming one of the first major universities to announce how it would reopen campus after the coronavirus pandemic led to academic shutdowns nationwide.” Link to article.

Father Jenkins was asked to appear on NBC’s Today with Savannah Guthrie, CNN with Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta, CNN with Kate Bolduan, and others, including MSNBC.

The Question

Notre Dame Magazine grappled again this week with fundamental questions about the pandemic in “The Crisis in Question.”  Alumnus Terrence Keeley, a managing director at the investment management corporation BlackRock, asked how our institutions, and we as individuals, can better respond to the vexing issues coronavirus lays bare.

He writes, “In time we will defeat this invisible enemy.  Dozens of new anti-viral and immunological treatments are now in advanced testing stages.  More time will bring more medical advances, better therapeutics and scalable vaccines.  Unlike WW I and II, allied victory in WW III is assured.  But how we get from here to there, and what lessons we derive from this, remain to be seen.  More data, analysis and wisdom will prevail over time—but several foundational questions…may prove vexing.”   Link to story.

The Researchers

Across the country, public health officials have begun administering antibody tests aimed at identifying Americans who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have potentially developed immunity to the disease.  But even with testing underway, experts say there are more questions than answers around the results. 

Merlin Bruening, the Donald and Susan Rice Professor of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, explained.  Link.

The Basilica

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart will reopen for regular Sunday and daily Masses beginning Sunday, May 24. Following the guidelines of the state, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and University for safe gathering and worship, restrictions will be implemented until further notice. Important details about these restrictions can be found at  Link to news release.

The Engineers

Notre Dame is continuing to respond to demand for protective equipment amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this time with the design and fabrication of intubation boxes for local health care providers.

An intubation box is a clear, open-ended cube that fits over a patient’s head and protects medical personnel during intubation—the process of inserting a tube into a patient’s airway to accommodate the use of a ventilator.

The Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering is fabricating two versions of the boxes—one for Elite Emergency Physicians, a local physicians group, and one for Saint Joseph Health System of Mishawaka—with specialized equipment in Notre Dame’s Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research.


The Feedback

Graduates, family, and friends of the Class of 2020 commented on the first virtual conferral of degrees:

  • “I know circumstances made it tough, but I can’t thank @NotreDame enough for making today’s virtual graduation so special!  Congratulations to all the fellow graduates of the Class of 2020!” - David Kornzeniowski, Class of 2020, Twitter
  • “We were absolutely astounded when the memory box arrived!  Thank you, Notre Dame, for commemorating this unusual time in your typical extraordinary way!  In our hearts forever, indeed.  A proud parent of a new graduate!” - Kathy Link, Facebook
  • “The online conferral of degrees was perfectly executed.  We did not know what to expect, but came away thoroughly joyful for our son’s accomplishment and equally eager to be back home at ND in May 2021 for the full commencement weekend.  Awesome job!  Thank you so much for the thoughtful deliberation behind a wonderful event.” - Michael McGowan, LinkedIn
  • “The graduation was very well done.  It was thoughtfully planned, well-executed, and quite touching.  Thank you Notre Dame.  Congratulations Edward Cheatham and the Class of 2020!” - Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, Facebook
  • “The University did a lovely job with the ceremony this morning.  Thanks for your dedication to students.” - Michelle Hayden Bomberger, Facebook
  • “It was awesome.  Thank you so much!  The graduate gift was a tearjerker too.  A million thanks.” - Anita LS, Facebook
  • “While we were sad not being there in person, you did a great job considering the circumstances.   Congratulations to the class of 2020!” - Lori Jean, Facebook
  • “I teared up when my son opened this amazing gift.  It was so thoughtful!  The degree conferral ceremony was so very well done.” - Kathie Cornelius, Facebook
  • “The way the University has handled these daunting circumstances is very impressive and the care shown to this graduating class has warmed the heart of this parent and alumna.  Love thee, Notre Dame! ☘️” - Katie Callaghan, Facebook


Paul J. Browne is the vice president for public affairs and communications