COVID-19 Royal Response Timeline

A walk through the sequence of events, post-COVID-19, at The University of Scranton.

COVID-19 Royal Response Timeline banner image

Adapt. It's what the University community has done, continuously in 2020, coming together to provide the best possible experience in uncertain times.

Here is a walk through the sequence of events, post-COVID-19, at The University of Scranton.

The first communication about COVID-19 is sent in January.



The University community receives its first communication about COVID-19 on Jan. 30.


University monitors the national and regional situations.



The University’s Incident Management Team and Student Health Services are monitoring the national and regional situations. This includes acting on recommendations and guidance from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Support is offered for study abroad students.



The University offers support to Scranton students studying abroad whose semesters were disrupted by cancellations, working with the deans to limit the impact on students' academic progress as much as possible.

A COVID-19 information webpage is launched, and the University extends spring break due to the pandemic.



A COVID-19 website is launched on March 4. 

Subsequent communications are sent about study abroad, spring break travel and housing. 

Remote learning is slated to begin on March 30 through Easter break.

On March 17, the University closes campus, operations continue. 

The Electric City Connection, an effort led by the University, partners with area businesses to provide meals to low-income residents.



Community organizations are partnering with area businesses to provide meals to low-income residents. The Electric City Connection, an effort led by The University of Scranton, Scranton Tomorrow and Friends of the Poor, accept donations that are then used by local restaurant partners to supply meals for low-income residents. Donations begin on March 20. Read more.

By April 28, the project has raised over $24,000 and provided over 1,650 meals. The project is a model for other cities. 

The University announces that remote instruction will continue for the remainder of the spring semester.



On March 26, the University announces that remote instruction will continue for the rest of the semester.  

Faculty members adapt to a new modality of remote education, first temporarily and then for the remainder of the semester. 

Most staff continue their work from home.

Dining Services, Facilities and the University Police Department are among the departments that continue their essential work on campus, while most other Scranton staff members continue their work from home. 

Many events go virtual, including Preview Day.



Over 900 high school students register to attend a Virtual Preview Day hosted by the University on March 28. The event includes eight large panel sessions throughout the day and 40 department sessions as prospective students interact with current students. Additionally, the University offers the chance for students to speak with representatives from several departments around campus. 

Information Technology supports a remote University.



“Our mantra in Information Technology is ‘It’s a great day to be in IT!’” said Susan Bowen, chief information officer at Scranton. “The IT staff rose to the challenge and continues to strive to meet the technology needs of a remote University community. I am exceedingly proud of their efforts and grateful for their continued commitment in this unchartered challenge.” 

The University donates Personal protective equipment.



More than 7,000 surgical masks, 15,000 examination gloves, 300 PPE items and 8,000 miscellaneous items are donated by the University in late March to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Supplies are given to three area hospitals: Commonwealth Health Regional Hospital of Scranton, Geisinger Community Medical Center and Moses Taylor Hospital. 
Read about that first donation.

The University honors frontline health care workers and others.



On April 1, the University creates Royals Respond and an Honor Roll by soliciting names and stories of alumni and others in the University community who are on the frontlines, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The St. Thomas Gateway is lit each night with a red cross on a blue background. Read these stories and share your own. 

Community Based Learning (CBL) shifts to a virtual format.



Classes still connect with the people of the Scranton area though Zoom and YouTube. Students do virtual storytime, art lessons and fitness classes for families in the community. 

“In the pivot to remote learning during COVID-19 pandemic, students and I remained focused on meeting the needs of the community organizations and members that we serve,” said Dr. Debra Fetherman, in an article about CBL courses. 

Performance Music launches a weekly “Informances” series.



The series kicks off on April 9 on Facebook Live with Peter and Will Anderson, who discuss the pieces they had composed The University’s 37th Annual World Premiere Composition Series Concert. 

Watch the series here.

Senior Week and Commencement are pushed to October.



Hoping the pandemic would be contained by October, University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., announces that Commencement will take place on Oct. 25.  

“The need to maintain social distancing and the risk of gathering so many people in one location outweigh even our most fervent wishes to honor you all in person this May,” wrote Fr. Pilarz.   

Unfortunately, Commencement is later canceled.

Read more.  

Staff and faculty “check in” on students.



In a time of adjustment for so many, staff and faculty members from around campus reach out to all undergraduate and graduate students as a check-in to see how they are coping with the switch to remote learning and offering help and words of support.  

“Everyone is scared during this time of uncertainty, so it is comforting to know the University cares about the well-being of its students,” said Grace Okrepkie ’24, an occupational therapy student. “As a first-year, I just recently decided to attend here mostly because it was heavily emphasized that this community feels like a family. This has proven to be true, considering the staff has generously decided to check in on each of the students.”

Read the student-written account 

Wellness opportunities and career advice are given on Zoom.



The Center for Health Education & Wellness continues to conduct live and recorded Weekly Wellness Classes.  
Faculty and alumni provide tips and support through Zoom videos.   

News stories related to the pandemic quoted University of Scranton faculty members and University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.



“I spend a lot of time praying and reflecting,” said Pilarz in a Chronicle of Higher Education article. “I have more time to do it, but I feel frustrated and I feel awful. The place they ought to be is a university campus, where they support one another and feel supported.”

Get links to this article and others that faculty members were quoted in, here.  

Students read from Esprit.


screen-shot-2020-10-02-at-2.50.12-pm.jpgEsprit, a co-curricular activity of the English and Theatre Department, is published twice yearly by the students of The University of Scranton. Not only did they publish in the spring, but they also did their first fully virtual reading, which you can watch, here.

Senior Student-Athletes are celebrated.



With the cancelation of the spring sports season on March 18, the University’s Athletic Department turns its attention to honoring all Senior Student-Athletes in a virtual celebration via Zoom. Nearly 300 viewers tune in live as each senior student-athlete is honored along with the presentation of the department’s annual major awards, and the celebration also features three superlative awards.   

More than 875 bachelor's degrees and more than 600 master’s and doctoral degrees are conferred.



Hoping that in-person commencement can take place in October, virtual celebration ceremonies are held by the University on May 30 and 31.  

University President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., announces during the undergraduate celebration that the façade of St. Thomas Hall will be renamed The Class of 2020 Gateway in honor of those who displayed great character during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Watch Class Night

Watch the Nursing Blessing of the Hands Award Ceremony

Watch the Graduate Commencement Celebration 

Watch the ROTC Commissioning 

Watch the Mass for the Class of 2020

Watch the Undergraduate Commencement Celebration

The Royal Experience Summer Internship Program provides funds for students.



Students, selected from a competitive pool, get a stipend of up to $4,000 to support their participation in a meaningful unpaid internship for the summer of 2020. The program is funded by the philanthropy of the University’s Parents’ Executive Council and the donations of alumni and friends of the University. Read more.

Other students, including Annie Yurgosky '22, secure other internships, despite the pandemic. Read Yurgosky's account, here.

The in-person Alumni Reunion is postponed, but countless alumni connect virtually.



Virtual reunion events are held. 

Alumni report reaching out on their own to connect with their fellow alumni, including two friends and first-year roommates from the Class of 1995. First responders James Kompany and Vince Carsillo say that, despite not being able to see each other in person at the pair’s 25-year reunion, they continue to support one another in their endeavors.

Read about more alumni connecting digitally, here

Purple People greet new students online.



Orientation sessions go virtual, with interactive sessions for students taking place in June and July.

Student Orientation leader Abril Lopez, a criminal justice and philosophy double major from Scranton; along with a team of University administrators, staff, faculty and nearly 50 student orientation assistants, will participate in the sessions to help acquaint the incoming class to Scranton. 

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) works to support region’s small businesses.



The SBDC is awarded CARES Act funds to support education, training and advising of small businesses affected by COVID-19 and works diligently throughout the pandemic to support the region’s small businesses. 

“We were able to answer a lot of questions from our clients about disaster assistance and help them when it mattered,” said Keith Yurgosky, one of the center’s small business consultants. “It made people feel good that they got to speak to a live person versus landing up in voicemail or having to stay on hold for hours on end.”

The SBDC is also named the 2020 National Small Business Week Winner at the end of September.  

Various members of the University community team up to create the Royals Safe Together: A Plan to Reopen Campus.


royalssafetogetherbanner_1280x360.jpegThe Royals Safe Together: A Plan to Reopen Campus, developed throughout the spring and summer months, is a thorough plan that addresses social distancing requirements, testing protocols and contact tracing as well as the responsibility of each member of the University community to follow health protocols in order to protect themselves and others.  

Volunteers help Make Move-in Weekend a success, with social distancing and masks.



Residence hall Move-in takes place through two phases to help control the foot traffic on campus.

All residential students may request permission to come to campus on Aug. 9, Aug. 10 and Aug. 11 to place their belongings in their room, do some initial unpacking, and depart campus. 

Other students move in on Aug. 15 and 16.

Classes begin on Monday, Aug. 17 with five instructional approaches.


timelinefirstday.jpgThe semester begins two weeks earlier than normal in order to clear campus before Thanksgiving and avoid a late fall spike in COVID-19 cases.  

The Father Sweeney Family Outreach Fund emerges as a saving grace for many Scranton students.



More than 1,000 alumni, parents and friends of the University "mask up" for Scranton students while raising more than $33,000 for The Father Sweeney Family Outreach Fund.

The Fr. Sweeney Fund provides emergency financial aid to students who are at risk of withdrawing because of unforeseen financial circumstances. In these unprecedented times, this fund has emerged as a saving grace for many Scranton students, raising nearly $240,000 since March.

To support our students and claim your Scranton mask, visit this link and make a gift to the Fr. Sweeney Fund.

University begins two week pause on on-campus instruction.



“After closely monitoring the results from testing throughout the week, I have decided to begin implementing proactive measures for a period of two weeks to reduce the spread of the virus on our campus,” said Father Pilarz.

The pause takes place from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30.

Father Pilarz’s full message from Sept. 11 can be seen here

On-campus instruction resumes.



Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., president of The University of Scranton, announces the University will resume in-person instruction (or mode of teaching established at the beginning of the semester) on Sept. 30. 

“As we have done from the start of the pandemic, we will monitor this situation with great care and will respond to developments accordingly. I remain deeply grateful to our entire community for your commitment to the sacred work of the University. Your patience and resilience are an inspiration. Please continue to hold one another up in prayer,” said Father Pilarz in an email sent to the University community on Sept. 28. 

Read more, here

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