INTIMES OF CRISIS, TOMMIES HAVE FOUNDWAYS TOHELP OTHERS AND TO KEEP ST. THOMAS A SAFE AND STRONG INSTITUTION. ASWE NAVIGATE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, HERE ARE EXAMPLES OF STRENGTHAND COMPASSION TOMMIES HAVE EXHIBITED THROUGHOUT HISTORY.
Editor's note: Due to cultural sensitivity concerns and accuracy considerations, original references to the Spanish flu have been removed from the online version of this story.
1918 FLU PANDEMIC Social distancing is not a new phenomenon at St. Thomas. Self-isolation was prescribed to Tommies in 1918, during the flu epidemic. The first diagnosed case in Minnesota appeared in late September of that year. “Classes already had started for the college and high school students enrolled at St. Thomas,” wrote Ann Kenne, head of special collections and archivist at St. Thomas. “A unit of the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) – a contingent of soldiers preparing to fight inWorldWar I – also was posted on campus.” The university did not close entirely, and students remaining on campus were asked to isolate themselves. Those who contracted the flu were cared for in the college infirmary. “While no records exist to tell us howmany of the approximately 1,200 students contracted the flu, we know at least three students and one member of the SATC died from it. The following year the flu reappeared and claimed the life of one seminarian,” Kenne said. WORLDWAR II: 1942 In an April 1942 message to alumni, the College of St. Thomas Alumni Association secretary, John Madigan ’22, wrote, “Higher education in America must lead, not follow.” He was referring to the role that alumni played in America’s fight duringWorldWar II. “St. Thomas men, everywhere, are joining the armed forces; are buying defense bonds; and are contributing time and energy necessary to keep the world safe for democracy. As a college-trainedman, you should do more than your share. Prove to America and the world that our higher educational system is the best on earth,” he wrote. St. Thomas knew it could play a critical role by bringing more leaders to the front lines of industries. The college introduced summer sessions, which enabled students to complete four-year degrees in three years, creating faster pathways for students to careers in medicine, dentistry and engineering. SEPT. 11, 2001 St. Thomas alumnus Anthony Kuczynski ’98, a first lieutenant in the Air Force, was flying toward Pittsburgh alongside two F-16 fighter jets on Sept. 11. “I was given direct orders to shoot down an airliner,” he said later. Just as he and his crew were about to intercept United Airlines Flight 93, passengers rushed the terrorists and the airliner crashed in a field. The U.S. was under attack. Students’ reaction was to be together and pray. More than 400 students, faculty and staff members attended a candlelight peace vigil. Two days later, at the opening Mass, the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas was so full that students were standing outside on the steps. In the months that followed, the St. Thomas community took action to bring forth love, insight and ideas, as it forged a way forward. Many alumni enlisted or were called or recalled to active duty. And Julie Hanson, a staff member in the Business Office, created a memorial quilt that ultimately featured 19,000 blocks from contributors all over the world.
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