Turning Again

Today was a very emotional combination of extraordinary events and more routine planning. We are still reeling from Wednesday’s attack, but we are also able to walk freely in the spring sunshine, to resume studying and practicing….even though our feelings of sorrow, anger and bewilderment still make it hard to focus. We are returning to our lives. We are wounded, but we turn again.

I want to emphasize to the Wes community that there is plenty of support available on campus throughout the weekend. Our Class Deans (who have been so generous and thoughtful with their time) will be on call throughout the next few days. The Office of Behavioral Health Services is available 24/7. Call 860 685-2910 when the office is closed. Some of Johanna’s closest friends are planning a memorial celebration of her life for some time in the next week. More information on that will be coming soon. Everyone should know that because of our extension of finals into Friday, May 15, that Wesleyan housing will close on Saturday, May 16 at noon.

I spoke with Johanna’s uncle today, and he conveyed how appreciative the family is for the warm expressions of support from Wesleyan. I want to echo that appreciation again with all my heart.

This afternoon the Huss Courtyard behind Usdan was packed with staff, faculty, students and other Middletown residents as we stood in silence, stood in one another’s company, in honor of Johanna. I asked for peace in the context of our recollection. It was very moving to be together in our grief.

We return to the rhythms of our campus lives with the memory of our loss still very fresh. We turn again, and we remember. May Johanna’s memory be a blessing to us all.

[tags] grief support, Behavioral Health Services[/tags]

15 thoughts on “Turning Again”

  1. Dear President Roth,
    We can not tell you how appreciative we are of the incredibly dedicated, responsible, responsive and sensitive way you and all school staff and the local police department have handled this unspeakable tragedy. We are so grateful for all of that and for your continued communication with the parent community as events unfolded. Your actions will help our children pick up the pieces and move ahead. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.
    Karen Belinky and Leslie Charm

  2. President Roth and all Weleyan staff,
    We would like to extend our deepest sympathy and prayers for Johanna and her family. We will always keep them in our hearts and prayers. We also want to thank everyone at Wesleyan for protecting our child and all of the students. Your constant updates to family and genuine concern about students and families were remarkable amidst the grief and stress that you must be experiencing. You helped all of us to get to where we are. May God help us to continue with love in our hearts.
    Thank you.

  3. President Roth :
    You probably do not remember me – but I remember you on campus back in the 70s. I am so thrilled that my daughter Alexandra Galef was accepted Early Decision Class of ’13. I was in agony from afar over this horrible, tragic episode on campus, and I wanted to send you a message of thanks and solidarity. From what I read on the Parent listserve, and everything I see on the blogs, the website, etc., I can tell that Wesleyan is as awesome a place now as it was during my years there.

    I can not wait to thank you in person when my daughter starts school in the Fall for your amazing leadership during this terrible time.

    Valerie Miller
    Class of 80 / P ’13 (and damn proud)

  4. Dear President Roth,
    I am not in the habit of writing to people I don’t know, or in this case, people I have met once or twice casually; however, I must write now.

    My son is a freshman at Wesleyan. I live in Berkeley and I can’t tell you how helpful — although also distressing! — it has been to get all of the emails from you and others on your staff. I just read your last communication, about today’s memorial, and while I read, I felt again that I needed to express my appreciation to you. When I got to your last line, ‘may her memory be a blessing,’ (which is a phrase I know well), I knew I had to write to tell you thank you again for taking such good care of my son and all of the Wesleyan community during this very difficult time.

    I must also add that I hope that you can now take some time to be with your family and take care of yourself.

    And while I have this opportunity, I want to let you know that it has been my continuing pleasure to watch my son as he explores college and life this year at Wesleyan. He is a lovely, creative, intelligent person (no Jewish mother bias here!) and Wesleyan suits him well….I can’t believe his freshman year is over…but that is another story….
    Anyway, thank you again for your humanity this week.
    Best regards,

  5. Michael – The extended Wesleyan community has come together with shock, sadness, outrage and caring during this terrible time. Alumni and parents have connected extensively by email and by phone to share questions and emotions – to express deep sympathy for Johanna’s family and tremendous empathy for you, your colleagues, and the students who have had to suffer such an horrific dose of the worst kind of reality. I hope that you can feel the world reverberating with and for alma mater.

  6. President Roth,
    Your love for Wesleyan University and its community of students has been evident since Day 1, but never more so than during this terrible dark week. We, parents, students, faculty, administration were treated as beloved family members in crisis.
    The loss of one of your own was evident on your face.
    None of us should have to endure what transpired this week; most especially Johanna’s family, who our hearts go out to.
    The senseless loss of a beautiful, young life, and threats to more beautiful young lives is unimaginable in an enlightened society.
    The sense of peace was shattered and it will be a long time until the pain dulls and the fear subsides.
    However, the response of Wesleyan to this tragic event was swift, and informative. We never felt in the dark, and knew help was there if needed. The fear of the unknown was not something anyone could address, but you addressed the known admirably. Thank you for caring for my family as your own, and my sympathies to you & the Wes family for the loss of one of your own.
    CathyAnn Bosco P’09

  7. To Michael and to Wesleyan,
    A year ago, I was proud to be a part of the Wesleyan community because of the honor bestowed on us of a Commencement address by the dynamic and inspiring man who is now the country’s President. Then, it was easy to feel good about our community. This year, we have experienced a searing and violent loss of one of our family. As a faculty member away on sabbatical, I have experienced this tragedy at a distance, by email and through Michael’s postings. I think it is no less painful from another continent. I wanted to be with you at the Usdan Center yesterday afternoon. But even from 3000 miles away, an extraordinary thing has happened: I have watched as Michael’s sensitive, caring, and supportive postings shared with us our and his sorrow, but also helped to lead us to a place where we can be together. Those letters have invariably struck just the right tones. This is the essence of sharing and of leadership. I feel more strongly now than ever before in the 22 years I have been at Wesleyan, a sense of community. This year, even more than in 2008, I am proud to be a part of Wesleyan. Thank you.

    Peter Mark
    Professor of Art History

  8. Thank you so much for takng such quick action in reaction the horrific event that occured on the campus. We are most appreciative and impressed by the university’s response. Our grandson, class of 2012, was one of the many students on the campus at the time of the incident. We spoke to him and were reassured that with the university in lock down he felt secure.
    Wen your child or grandchild is away from home their safety is constantly on your mind. We were kept apprised of the situation through our daughter Dr. Shellley Payne. The fact that she was kept up-to-date was a great comfort to the family.
    Again, thank you for a job well done. We pray that we will never have to live through such a horrible event again.

  9. Dear Mr Roth…….

    I address this email to you because as a parent and member of the Wesleyan community I feel strong leadership is imperative during this period of great emotional trauma and confusion. Our students are scared, confused and exhausted. Many have traveled great distances escaping the dangers of Middletown. The period between spring fling (WED) and Monday the 11th are the most demanding, focused and intense period in the semester. For all intensive purposes, those days were stripped away from our students. Can we realistically expect our students to be prepared for finals? Even with a 1 or 2 day grace period, is that adequate? I suggest the following:

    (1) Let’s consider the minority of the Wesleyan students, the students closet to this disaster ( i.e. – Johanna’s friends and co-workers or the Jewish girls living in the Bayet). Let’s creates options that will help alleviate the pressures on these students and offer them to all of our students.

    (2) Considering (1) above, set a policy that is consistent amongst all professors. Students should not have to negotiate with professors nor should professors present different options from their peers.

    In conclusion, the strength of great institutions lie in the empowerment and freedom offerred it’s workers, in academia it’s professors. But during great distress, whether it be a corporation fighting for it’s survival or a University wrestling with an unthinkable and devastating series of events, the leader, the person sitting in your chair needs to set policy that will protect it’s most injured and vulnerable. Your policy on final exams needs to be consistent and adhered to by all it’s professors. Please provide our students with this protection.


    Michael M Jacobs (Father of Isabelle Jacobs)

  10. Some more articulate than I have expressed their appreciation for sound actions in keeping our kids safe, and for your compassionate leadership during this difficult time. Having just read your piece in the Wall Street Journal on the loss of your brother before you were born, and having a son at Wesleyan who could have written a similar essay, my heart goes out to Johanna’s parents. The loss of a child is devastating, and the life of the surviving sibling(s) is forever changed. I hope that Johanna’s sister finds a way to bring her parents and herself some measure of happiness and future “nachas”.

  11. Dear President Roth,

    Thank you for your leadership and sound judgment during the recent crisis at Wesleyan. The tragic death of Johanna-Justin-Jinich touches us deeply. We grieve for her and for those she leaves behind.

    As the parents of Brendan Conuel (2010), we were reassured and strengthened by your quick and decisive actions, your willingness to take charge, and by the sensitive, thoughtful, and informative communications from you and others, notably Meg Zocco, Parent Programs & Development, and Mike Whaley, Vice President for Student Affairs.

    The Wesleyan community rose to the challenge during a sorrowful and frightening time.


    Tom and Veronica Conuel

  12. Dear President Roth,

    I want to echo the words of other parents and thank you for your leadership during last week’s tragedy. You and the entire Wes administration and staff did an outstanding job in the most difficult of circumstances. As a parent, I appreciated the flow of information, as well as the concern and caring shown to our students. Wesleyan has been a wonderful home to my daughter Miriam for the last four years, and we look forward to being on campus next week to celebrate graduation. Thank you again for all you have done, this week and since you began your tenure as President, to make Wesleyan the outstanding school that it is.

    Nancy Krent P’09

  13. Dear Michael,
    Just a brief word of thanks from Deborah and me for the way that you and your staff have handled this horrible situation. Your communication has been clear, your concern for safety has been meticulous, and your desire not to let this bizarre horror hijack the central mission of tolerance and enlightenment that characterizes Wesleyan has been impressive. It makes me proud to be an alum and a parent of a Wes student.
    Best regards,
    Ron Epstein ’76, P’11

  14. Dear President Roth,
    Thank you. Thank you for leading Wesleyan so well at such an awful time. Your words to the students, to parents, to the outside world, were at all times appropriate and comforting. Your administrative team has been magnificent. Our daughter shared the messages from her class dean, which were very helpful on Thursday, as anxiety reached a crescendo.
    You have certainly had your share of tumultuous situations in your short time so far at Wesleyan, and David and I have admired how you have handled them. We wish no one would every have to handle this kind of incident again, which is why establishing a chapter for the Brady Campaign at Wes may be a step on the road to healing for this amazing community.
    Again, thank you. We truly wish that a shelter of peace spread over the entire Wesleyan community.
    With all best wishes,
    Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, P’08, P’11

  15. Dear President Roth,

    First and foremost, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to Johanna’s family, friends and the entire Wesleyan community on this tragic loss.

    We also want to express to you that, as parents of four (three of whom have already graduated from college) we have witnessed many institutional responses to crises great and small over the years. Never have we witnessed a more sensitive, appropriate and effective response in the face of trauma than that exhibited by you, your entire adminstrative team and the Wesleyan community generally. Leadership and the character of an institution are tested in the crucible of a horrifying tragedy like this. The right balance between addressing the practical exigencies and the torrent of emotion is elusive. We’re indelibly impressed along all of these dimensions, and we’re deeply grateful for the steady and obviously caring hand that’s on the tiller at Wesleyan. We hope that Wesleyan is able to temper its deep sadness with great pride.

    Mark and Etta Rosen, P’10

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