Driving in yesterday morning I noticed it was a cool 50 degrees and sprinkles were evident on my windshield, providing some hope of much needed rain. As we near the end of the academic year with only a month or so remaining it seems like a good time to catch up on a few noteworthy events that have occurred and some to come.
Perhaps one of the more exciting events that deserves mention is the stellar season that our women’s soccer team achieved that concluded this past week. Although they did not ultimately win the Red River Athletic Championship this time as we did last year, we did face a considerably more challenging season since every match we played save one took place on the road. And even so, we made the semifinal round of the RRAC Championship and took undefeated Our Lady of the Lake into a double-overtime event that the opposition was exceedingly fortunate to win. A fairly contested breakaway shot that was well defended by our keeper missed in the second overtime but unfortunately was ruled worthy of a penalty kick by a referee who was not in the best position to make a call cost us a chance to continue competing in a contest that I was certain we would have won had the match continued.
As proud as I am of our Women’s Soccer Program I am equally proud of the Mustang Spirit that was alive and well over the course of the compressed athletic season that took place this spring. Because of COVID our coaches and student-athletes had the choice of not playing anything at all this year or moving everything to the spring. But in order to make that work, we also had to relocate our teams to Sky Ranch in Van (TX) and play every game on the road. Few teams in any sport ever go undefeated when they play half of their games on the road and yet our teams still elected to compete this year knowing they would not be hosting any games at home or playing or even practicing at the best facilities in the conference (at USW of course!). However, simply deciding not to compete really was never a consideration once we knew that the RRAC was committed to going forward with athletics with measures in place to optimize the safety of all students and coaches.
Next year we do not expect to encounter the same set of circumstances that colleges and universities and everyone else across the globe endured as the world experienced a pandemic. But as much as we expect next year to be better, it likely will not be completely “normal” until later in the fall. Widespread vaccinations will certainly help to get campus back to usual operations more quickly than anything else that we might do but I foresee measures currently in place that include facemasks and social distancing likely remaining in place when we start the fall term. And although I doubt that our campus will require all members of the campus community to be vaccinated, I do believe that students who wish to room together in residential on-campus housing will have to be vaccinated.
Preparations for a virtual commencement ceremony are currently underway for students who are graduating. And although few people would prefer a virtual ceremony to an in-person one, this year’s event promises to be even better than last year’s. We even will feature for the first time since I have been here, a presentation of an honorary doctorate to an extremely worthy local hero who has led the charge in promoting public health in our county. David Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of Nor-Lea Hospital District was recommended by USW faculty for this prestigious honor and with the unanimous approval of the USW Board of Trustees a Doctorate of Humane Letters will be bestowed upon David during this year’s commencement. We also are excited to hear Dr. Melissa Mireles, a USW alumnus and former volleyball standout, give the graduation address.
It has been a year like no other and I can’t say I am not looking forward to graduation more this year than at any other time. If anyone would have asked me last fall how we hoped to make it through the year and whether or not we would do as well as we have I probably would not have been terribly optimistic except for this. I know that God is in control and He is the inspiration for all that we did right this year. All the credit is His!