Our World Turned Upside Down

By John N. Diamond ’77, ’89G


CERTAIN YEARS REMAIN EMBEDDED in our collective American consciousness.

The mention of 1776 brings to mind history lessons and midsummer celebrations. A reference to 1968 jogs recollections of social unrest, especially among those of us who are Baby Boomers. The year 2001 sparks thoughts of the shocking event that jolted our nation’s sense of homeland security.

And now, 2020. Domestically and globally, its legacy will include civil and human rights demonstrations, environmental activism, and electoral politics. But above all, COVID-19 will be 2020’s marker. The pandemic continues to dictate daily life, imposing on humankind dreadful health, social, and economic consequences.

Of all institutions, schools — the bedrock of communities, cultures, and upward mobility — were among the first to be upended by the virus. Practically overnight, remote and online instruction became the predominant method of teaching and learning from Kindergarten through college. Students of all ages lost their sense of normalcy, both in learning and life.

At UMaine, COVID-19 forced students, employees, and ad–ministrators to pivot in ways largely unforeseen and unfamiliar. The Class of 2020’s final semester was unlike anything its predecessors experienced: sudden dismissal from campus in March; the abrupt shift to online-only coursework; physical isolation from classmates, faculty, and campus resources; and financial and emotional hardships resulting from uncertainty about the virus’s effects on family, friends, and job prospects.

Additionally, the Class of 2020 suffered the loss of a long-anticipated tradition and symbol of accomplishment: the elation of Commencement, participating in cap and gown alongside classmates and in the presence of loved ones.

To what extent will the Class of 2020’s final semester define its members’ UMaine experience and, more importantly, who they become? How significantly and permanently will the pandemic shape our lives, values, and priorities? The reflections on the following pages offer hints. Submitted by class members and alumni, they document examples of trauma, adversity, resiliency, and perspective.

It will be years before we fully recognize and appreciate 2020’s place in history. All we can do for now is gather the stories and ponder their relevance.

John N. Diamond is the President/CEO of the University of Maine Alumni Association


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