A Call to Kindness
July 14, 2017
To the JU Community:
This morning I had the privilege of welcoming students and parents of the Jacksonville University Class of 2021 attending our first orientation session. Over all three sessions, we will host nearly 600 incoming students, one of the largest and smartest classes since my arrival as president. These students represent 37 states and U.S. territories, and more than 20 countries. I made it clear to all of them that they were joining more than a community; they were joining a family. We are so proud to have them here.
What happens here at JU begins with families—like yours, mine, and those who participated in Orientation decades ago—offering feedback and sharing ideas. We know that continuing to invest in students and extending our reach around the globe is how trust is earned--the trust of families.
Unlike my own experience coming to college in the 1970’s, before the advent of cellphones and the Internet, many of this class of 2021 have already begun forming bonds and relationships in this family through social media and other tools. It is a hopeful and encouraging sign when they connect. And because of this they also know that there is one member of our JU family who will not be joining her class today.
Bianca Roberson, an incoming freshman from Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, was taken from us on June 28th by a senseless and random road rage incident. Less than two weeks have passed, and I am so impressed, and proud, of our Class of 2021 with how they have rallied together in response to the loss of Bianca, to support her family, the University, and one another. It is clear that this class believes in culture, kindness, community, and giving, as demonstrated by their actions. They have already begun to take the lead. Students from this class who had known me for only 15 minutes, approached me today with fresh ideas about how to give, share, and come together as a community in more and better ways—not only in response to this tragedy, but on so many fronts.
We’ve faced challenges before and thrived, and we will do it again. Together.
Just last year the biggest hurricane to hit Jacksonville in one hundred years deeply impacted our campus. But the spirit with which our students, faculty, and administration came together to face that difficult time, and the tenacity of the entire JU family, was powerful and compelling. While our campus was physically torn apart, it was actually coming together—spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. Now, we are challenged once more, and I have every confidence that this University, with the Class of 2021 leading the way, will make a productive way forward.
Having faced sorrow and loss in her own life, Bianca wrote that we should treat every day as a privilege. Every moment as an opportunity to do good and to make a difference. We, at JU, believe that too.
In addition to creating our scholarships in her memory, the coming days and weeks will include the launch of our JUst Be Kind initiative, an emphasis on acts of kindness, community service, and outreach. As we reflect on the loss of one of our own, we take her words to heart and count ourselves privileged to celebrate Orientation together, and most importantly, to making a difference in the lives of others.
We ask everyone associated with Jacksonville University to consider embracing core tenets of our culture: kindness, respect, service, humility. We are grateful for every one of you, the members of our JU family.
Class of 1981