Thank you for joining us today. I am deeply moved by your presence and am more proud than ever to be a member of the Lumberjack family.

The tragic events of last Friday have left us all in a state of shock. Our hearts go out to the students who were involved and their families. Their lives will never be the same, and for that I am deeply saddened.

I am not alone in this regard. Over the days that have followed, we have witnessed an outpouring of heartfelt sympathy and support that demonstrates the true nature of our NAU community. I have been so inspired by all of you—our students, faculty, staff and the extended Lumberjack family—who have shown kindness, compassion and hope in our time of grief. It is our great fortune to live in such a community, a community that values each and all of us, a community that shows itself at its very best when our need is greatest.

Ever since I came here one year ago, I have been trying to describe the NAU experience. It is an experience colored by the natural beauty of the San Francisco peaks, our blue skies and pine forests—that is obvious as we stand here today on the grounds of Old Main. But the wonder and beauty of this place are only the setting for a deeper beauty, a beauty that springs from the quality and character of the people who call this university, and this city, home. We are an institution fully committed to teaching and learning, and your presence here today is an affirmation of the depth and breadth of our commitment to continuous learning, to understanding more about ourselves and our hopes and dreams in every circumstance that the world presents us.

I believe in this campus and in this community. I believe in the special nature of this place and the NAU experience. I believe that we all carry a special promise within ourselves that we share with others, even in the most difficult of times. And I believe that our unity and strength will see us through.

To our students and their families, our faculty and staff, our alumni, the Arizona Board of Regents, the elected officials and many others who have reached out to us, I extend my deepest gratitude. We are blessed to live in such a caring community and I will always be grateful to you for your compassion and support.

I believe in this campus and in this community. I know in my heart that the bonds that hold us together will only be strengthened by our learning from and caring for each other in the days and weeks ahead.

May we always share this belief in our hearts.