• 79°

Farmville will thrive through this crisis

This hard spring of 2020 in Farmville and for America is one we will never forget.

Our proud two-college town has never looked more beautiful in the midst of it all. And our pride and commitment to community have been a source of great strength in helping one another through this anxious time.

But it has been so painfully quiet without our college students and the vitality they provide. That’s especially true these last few weeks, typically filled with the sounds of happy families and friends descending by the thousands, filling hotels and restaurants and shops, to celebrate the graduations across successive weekends for Hampden-Sydney and Longwood.

On the other side of this crisis, we will cherish such scenes all the more – not just next spring, but in October, when both colleges plan on-campus celebrations to honor the Class of 2020. And of course, it’s not just with graduation weekends that campus life drives the local economy. Between our employees and vendors, Longwood itself typically has up to a thousand people per day working here. We know how important those jobs are, which is why – despite truly unprecedented challenges facing all of higher education – we are going to extraordinary lengths to protect and preserve them.

Longwood and Hampden-Sydney are naturally working together through this crisis and also working closely with state health officials on practices to allow students to safely return next fall. Safely re-opening college campuses is an imperative for college communities like ours. It’s also urgent for the country. I worry deeply about the long-term effects on this generation of students – and the long-term costs to the country they will eventually step up to lead – if their educations are derailed, as I fear they could be by the pandemic and economic devastation. COVID-19 is not likely to be eradicated in the fall or even well beyond that, and we are keenly focused on the fact there are members of our community who are more vulnerable than college students themselves typically are – and the steps we are planning will reflect that.

This crisis will be an inflection point in America’s history as well as our community’s, and we have big challenges moving forward. There are many in our community hit especially hard by this economic contraction. We must rekindle our local economic vitality, and continue our progress and promoting of Farmville.

Fortunately, this crisis has also revealed great sources of strength and resilience. Our economic engines of higher education, health care and tourism – though facing real challenges these last months – set us apart for the future. Our institutions and local leaders have worked carefully together, and our people have looked out for one another, focused on what matters most. While those who live only on social media might reasonably conclude the country is helplessly divided, most people here work together as neighbors should, resisting getting drawn into petty divisions that distract from important work.

Farmville has a wonderful character and – most powerfully of all – a diverse cadre of people who love it and are committed to making it better. We will need every ounce of that energy and positivity for the task that lies ahead.

This spring has been unlike any we have known, and it will leave a mark on us, like everyone, for many years to come. But like any crisis, it is also an opportunity. Let us build on the great strengths it has revealed as we undertake this important work.

  1. Taylor Reveley IV, Longwood University President can be reached at Reveleywt@longwood.edu.