TTU_9763This past week has been one of the most unusually beautiful and challenging in the 100-year history of Tennessee Tech University. Nature often humbles us and forces us to reassess our priorities and plans. Although any record of campus closings are hard to come by, canceling classes and closing the TTU campus for an entire week due to wintry weather conditions appears to be without precedent in everyone’s recollection. In fact, TTU folklore says that TTU will cancel classes only when the snow reaches the eagle on top of Derryberry Hall. Well, I guess that myth was busted soundly this past week!

As an old chemistry professor, it is completely against my instinct and nature to give up a single minute of class time, but as president I understand my duty to make a decision that gives priority to the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff. Although the decisions to close campus each day were difficult, I was very proud of the process we followed in making those calls. Regular communication and input from the academic deans, Faculty Senate leaders, campus police, campus facilities and grounds, dining services, National Weather Service, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Cookeville Emergency Management and others ensured that we had the most updated and relevant information possible to make an informed decision. Thanks to the excellent work of Associate Vice President Karen Lykins and her staff, the campus received regular and timely announcements regarding campus status and class schedules.

Despite being officially closed, the campus was far from inactive. Essential campus services had to be maintained for the comfort and safety of more than 2,000 students living on campus. We owe a special thank you to all of the facilities, grounds, SSC custodial services, Chartwells dining services, Health Center, police, Fitness Center and library staff who went well beyond the norm under difficult circumstances to keep necessary services operating. Once again, TTU staff showed how awesome they are by doing everything that needed to be done with a great attitude and obvious personal pride in the Tech campus and TTU students.

Social media was burning up throughout the week with questions, comments, suggestions, pictures and jokes. #TechYeah emerged as the proud campus rallying cry on Twitter to unite students, faculty and staff in this shared experience. Classes may have been suspended for the week, but I dare say much learning occurred nonetheless.

For all of you who worked much longer hours in the unusually harsh environment to serve the rest of us, thank you. You have demonstrated the true spirit of Tennessee Tech for all of us. I am delighted to recognize each of you as the first recipients of the #TechYeah Award for Service.

Go Eagles!