The global outbreak of novel coronavirus upended Lehigh’s spring semester, with courses moving online, campus closed to all but a few students and essential personnel, and Commencement postponed.
Still, during this time of tremendous change and uncertainty, people across the university community are reaching out to support one another.
In his message to campus on March 24, President John Simon reflected on the grit and determination of the Lehigh community in response to the pandemic, writing, “We are truly all in this together. … Rising to these challenges demonstrates who we are as Mountain Hawks, and albeit difficult in the moment, provides the opportunity for us to be our best, and to bring out the best in each other.”
These are the stories of a few Mountain Hawks who are living the Lehigh spirit.
Chinese Students and Families Donate Masks
More than 100 Chinese students and their families came together and raised funds to purchase nearly 15,000 n95 and surgical face masks from China. They donated the masks to local hospitals, police and fire departments and Lehigh Dining Services.
“We Chinese community have fought the coronavirus since its early days in Wuhan. Now our focus is fighting it here at home in the Lehigh Valley,” says Tiffany Jing Li, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. She helped coordinate the donation with students over WeChat.
“For these students and their families to step up in such a significant way, despite fighting their own COVID-19 battle back at home in China, shows true selflessness," Ben Guerin told the Morning Call. Guerin is the manager of occupational medicine sales for the St. Luke’s University Health Network, whose main hospital is located just blocks from Lehigh. He added, “We are experiencing a global pandemic, but we are also witnessing communities coming together from, quite literally, across the world. It’s so encouraging to see.”
A Special Treat for Students Still on Campus
When Lehigh moved to remote learning on March 16, some students were not able to return immediately to their homes. The majority of those who needed to remain on campus were international students. Along with other campus resources, the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) continues to support these students and offer opportunities to connect, despite social distancing.
While Dining Services is still providing meals to students, OISS wanted to offer something special. “OISS had originally thought of hosting small dinners for students still on campus (while [Lehigh staff] could all be on campus), but that quickly changed when we had to work from home,” says Caroline Neal, intercultural programs coordinator.
The Office of International Affairs partnered with the Office of Residence Life, Student Affairs, Student Auxiliary Services, Housing Services, to provide Takeout Treats, an opportunity to celebrate the end of the semester with takeout meals. They worked with local South Side Bethlehem restaurant Jenny’s Kuali, a longtime community partner, to provide the meals.
“We wanted to do something nice for our on-campus students who have shown great resilience and flexibility over the past few weeks as we adjust to a new normal, as well as find a way to support our neighborhood businesses,” says Neal.
Lehigh Strong: A COVID Relief Variety Show
Adrian Suarez ’22 wanted to find a way to give back to the local community. So he partnered with student leaders, the Student Affairs Department, Alumni Office and the Community Service Office to plan “Lehigh Strong: A COVID Relief Variety Show.”
He and a committee of 12 other students are soliciting short videos from students, faculty, staff and alumni sharing their gratitude for South Bethlehem’s essential workers and “their care for our united Lehigh community across the globe. The committee is compiling the videos into a full-length variety show to be livestreamed in early June, with the goal of raising funds for St. Luke’s University Health Network and neighborhood nonprofits.
“My only hope is that years after this pandemic subsides we would remember how strong our Lehigh bond is and how we have responded with initiative, compassion, and generosity in helping those most negatively impacted by Covid-19,” says Suarez.