Dear Colleagues,

As we begin the Spring quarter, I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your outstanding work, which has kept our University moving forward. I will touch on some of our recent accomplishments and successes in a moment.

But as we enter the third year of a pandemic — which, as the World Health Organization’s director reminded us, “will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere” — I believe we should acknowledge the price we have paid for our collective accomplishments.

So many among us have been worn down by COVID fatigue that we come to work already exhausted. The conditions under which we operate — what can seem like a Groundhog Day of zoom meeting after zoom meeting — are far from ideal. We bear the weight of loss and feel the weight of unrelenting pressures — from managing and meeting the high expectations of our stakeholders to maintaining our competitive edge in higher education’s radically changing landscape. And we note the alarming changes in the vital signs of our cities, democracy, and planet.

Yet you show up each day for our students, our external partners, and one another — all united in common purpose to pursue excellence, to improve those vital signs and to serve the public good. And each day, you fan the sparks of creativity however and wherever they arise.

Often, those sparks catch fire and drive innovation and progress. You can find evidence of great performances everywhere on campus:

  • With "very high research activity" in that is powered by our faculty, doctoral students, and our Office of Research and Innovation, we have secured our coveted R-1 university standing. Every day, as reported in DrexelNEWS and captured by our terrific research magazine Exel, our faculty achieve amazing breakthroughs that hold great promise for protecting the environment and promoting health and scientific progress.
  • Catalyzed by our Strategic Plan, we have taken major steps to optimize student enrollment, retention, and success through improvements in technology and the integration of marketing with University communications. Those efforts have already borne fruit with more than 36,000 applications for admission, a 7% jump over last year. By coordinating efforts to improve the student experience for our online students, Strategic Planning teams also helped Drexel move up 13 positions in U.S. News & World Report rankings of Best Online Bachelors programs. (I am also pleased to report that Drexel was selected as an Amazon Career Choice member, which means Amazon will pre-pay 100% of tuition for employees to pursue everything from bachelor’s degrees to certificates.)
  • Propelled by recent announcements — Spark Therapeutics will build a gene therapy facility next to the Main Building, and Gattuso Development Partners will build Philadelphia’s largest life sciences research facility at 32nd and Cuthbert — Drexel is fueling University City’s booming tech and life sciences sectors, which will generate new research opportunities (and lab space) for our faculty, more co-op and post-graduate employment opportunities for our students, and more economic growth for our city and region.
  • And we just witnessed outstanding accomplishments by our athletics teams. While losing a close game to Seton Hall in the third round of the National Invitational Tournament last week, our women’s basketball team, led by Coach Amy Mallon, captured the regular season title of the Colonial Athletic Conference and finished the season with its best record ever — 28 wins and 6 losses. And our women’s and men’s squash teams, led by Coach John White, finished the season ranked 2nd and 7th in the country, with our women’s squad upsetting #3 Princeton and #2 Trinity College before coming up just short against Harvard in the national championship match. The performance of all our sports teams is a testament to the leadership of our outstanding Athletics Director Maisha Kelly, our terrific coaches and staffs, and of course, to our talented student athletes whose commitment to excellence in academics and athletics is inspiring.

Good news on the financial front

Last month, Moody’s revised its outlook on Pennsylvania Higher Education Facilities Authority's outstanding bonds issued for Drexel University to Stable from Negative while affirming its “A3” ratings on existing bonds issued for Drexel. Moody’s cited the University’s sound fiscal management and its “ability to manage through the financial and operational challenges associated with both the pandemic and the bankruptcy of a partnering healthcare system.”

The improved outlook also represented Moody’s vote of confidence not just in our financial health, but also in our long-term strategies, guided by our Strategic Plan, to address and successfully navigate the competitive and financial pressures that higher education will face over the next decade.

A Legacy to Share

Since Drexel’s founding in 1891, generations of Dragons have risen above the struggles of the moment and worked toward creating a better, brighter future. That especially has been the case for our Black alumni, who have made an indelible mark on Drexel and society. Prior to Homecoming in January, I read A Legacy to Share: Navigating Life’s Challenges & Celebrating Our Greatest Achievements (Drexel Publishing Group), and once again I was moved to learn about the extraordinary lives and careers of dozens of Drexel’s Black alumni. These stories of struggle, triumph and transformation are important chapters in our history that every one of us should learn. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

A Legacy to Cherish

Earlier this year, our Drexel family and the country lost a trailblazing giant in the fight to advance social justice with the passing of Lynn Yeakel. Since arriving at Drexel 20 years ago, Lynn led the College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, and established several successful programs to advance women’s economic, political, and social empowerment. Entering her ninth decade, Lynn continued to fight for justice right up to the end by leading a nationwide campaign to increase women’s civic engagement through voting and public service.

The Legacy We Create

So much work remains for all of us to make our University a more inclusive and welcoming community for all as well as an innovative force for civic health, scientific progress, and social and environmental justice. For starters, I encourage all of you to get more engaged with our Strategic Plan by reading its quarterly reports closely and by attending roundtable discussions, including today’s session at 1 pm, which will focus on continuing education and lifelong learning.

I also urge everyone to commit toward our shared and most important goal of becoming an antiracist institution where everyone who works, teaches, and studies here feels a sense of inclusion and belonging. If you have not already done so, check out the recent Strategic Planning podcast discussion on our antiracism efforts, moderated by Ahaji Schreffler, senior director of education abroad in the Office of Global Engagement, between Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Kim Gholston and Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Dean Jason Shupbach.

In Pirkei Avot, an ancient rabbinical sage wrote, "It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it." We need to remember that there will always be a lot of work to do — and that in order to bring our best selves to our work, we also need to take better care of ourselves and one another.

I hope you all will give yourselves the breaks you need and use your down times to recharge. Then we can show up more refreshed and ready to seize each new day as an opportunity to generate or fan a spark that turns into a truly wonderful addition to the Drexel legacy that we create together.


John Fry

Contact Us