Message from the President
The pre-Halloween trick nature played on Drew and the rest of the East Coast brought with it dueling emotions: fear for our campus, as branches toppled under an unseasonable snowfall that weighed down the still-leafy trees, and love for all Drew’s forested beauty. When students returned after four days, the landscape looked a little leaner, but Drew’s spectacular autumnal glory held strong.
I’m reminded of what Olin Curtis, an early seminary professor, wrote on the marvels that surround us in The Building of Drew University, a book published in 1938 by Professor Charles Fremont Sitterly. “The first time I ever saw Drew Forest, Doctor Upham, my gracious host, suddenly said: ‘Do you want to see the finest thing we have here?’ Before we came to the library, the doctor stopped, backed away from the path, and, with a quick flourish of his entire arm, as if trying to sweep the whole campus into the spot in front of him, exclaimed heartily: ‘There it is! That beech! Is there anywhere on earth, any living thing more beautiful?’”
Familiarity breeds contempt, and we can take even the greatest gifts for granted. The October 29 storm renewed for all of us a sense of nature’s other and more beneficent side, the grace of the land we at Drew have inherited. Indeed, this issue of Drew Magazine is a visual hymn to the Forest.
But the truth is that had students returned just a day or two after the storm, they would have been saddened by the mounds of debris on campus and stunned by the degree of destruction.
After Drew lost power on Saturday afternoon, the food staff successfully came up with makeshift meals, even cooking outdoors on grills, until we could evacuate the campus. Families of students who lived nearby took in students who could not easily travel home to further destinations. (One New Jersey family took in nine students. Another housed 14!) Meanwhile, student life personnel led by Associate Dean Frank Merckx worked overtime to accommodate 40 students who could not get away and who were taken in by our very generous colleagues at the College of St. Elizabeth.
For what seemed an age, Executive Director of Facilities Mike Kopas and his staff went without sleep and the usual creature comforts to clean up the campus and make it ready for the rest of us. In fact, my only reluctance in writing about the quiet heroism of some is that I am perforce neglecting others, colleagues in every office from computing to the registrar to finance to the various schools. I don’t know of a single case where an individual did not shine.
And so the quirky, terrible storm and its aftermath reminded us finally of the one thing we love more than Drew’s natural beauty: its people, who are tantamount to its soul.
The premature snowstorm blessedly left trees standing, but took down branches with a vengeance. For photos, visit drew.edu/treemageddon.