Today, Dec. 13, marks three months since our campus closure on another Friday the 13th.  Today, we are taking back the day by honoring you, for your hard work and dedication to the university.

I’ve been bragging on you everywhere I have gone and showing some of these pictures we’ve been watching this morning.

I’ve boasted about you to the regents, our donors, to state legislators, and to our peers across the nation.  Everywhere I go, your work and dedication to the university has been met with awe and admiration. And I share their admiration. But I have to say, I’m not surprised. It’s my honor to celebrate you, and to thank you for your work, during this historic challenge.

It was one of the worst four-day periods in the university’s history and ironically … one of the best … because we saw how the university community came together in the face of a crisis. Within this room are amazing stories of work ethic and devotion to the university.

While others stayed home when the campus was closed, or were turned away by roadblocks, you are the group that persisted. Many of you came to the service of the university, even when your own homes were flooded or damaged.

Some of you came to work at 6 a.m. that Thursday morning, and did not go home until after midnight on Friday, sleeping in your office for a few hours, if you were lucky. Then many of you returned at 6 a.m. Saturday because duty called. There were different iterations of this schedule, but the point is, your work was truly amazing and deeply appreciated.

You saved priceless university collections and experiments from the floodwaters, including art collections in the museum, rare and extinct entomology collections, valuable seed samples, NASA flight-ready equipment assembled in clean rooms, laboratory animals cared for in dozens of locations on campus … and the list goes on.

You protected thousands of students who live in campus residence halls. There were no serious injuries to students—or to faculty or staff, including those of you working on the front lines.

One hundred twenty buildings were damaged, but only one classroom was taken offline, enabling us to reopen on Monday. Five hundred fifteen people were evacuated from their campus homes, but the vast majority was quickly returned to their homes because of your work.

You fought fatigue and in some cases danger. You assured your worried children, spouses and partners that you were safe and would be home soon, although you didn’t know when.

This was an incredible cross-campus effort of dedicated individuals, who worked many long hours, and your work was inspiring. Today, we honor you. Thank you for your work and devotion to the university.