Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,

Two weeks ago, my wife, Joanne, and I officially became empty nesters after dropping our fourth child off for her first year of college. In the weeks prior, my daughter packed up her room, embarked on countless forays to Bed, Bath & Beyond for the “essentials” of dorm life, and spent one summer night after another saying goodbye to her friends as they set out in separate directions. Meanwhile, I dutifully loaded her boxes into the back of our minivan while curbing my impulse to load on a few more words of advice before her departure.

For years, since the time our oldest child left home, I have been steeling myself for this moment, wondering how our house… our meals… our refrigerator… would echo with this absence. How our lives, once so raucous and chaotic with the thrum of children, schedules and sports, would adjust to the strangeness of this new calm and quiet. I expected to feel a profound sense of loss and nostalgia as we left our daughter at the steps of her new dorm and returned, by ourselves, to our home. And, of course, as parents, we did.

But as I returned to our campus as a university president, and watched other freshmen leave their parents with barely a wave goodbye, I was reminded anew what this moment means to an academic community.

For an institution like Johns Hopkins, the start of an academic year is always a moment of optimism and hope. It marks a new beginning and ushers in new opportunities. The challenges before us still loom large — whether our tasks are to lay the foundation of a new building, of a new curriculum, or of a new approach to a vexing research problem. But as the year begins, we also draw energy from new sources — our incoming freshmen, our wonderful new deans, the light-filled spaces of the Brody Learning Commons and the new Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center — and reignite the passions that attracted us to Johns Hopkins in the first place.

I am — as ever — grateful to be part of the excitement that our students, faculty and staff bring to Johns Hopkins. And I look forward to seeing all that this new year holds. Welcome back.

Warm regards,

Ronald J. Daniels