From the President department heading
Illustration of John C. Bravman, President
Illustration: Joel Kimmel

A Maxwell Award for All at Bucknell

As of this writing in late February, we are fewer than 90 days from Commencement. This May, we’ll celebrate, for the first time, two on-campus Commencements in one weekend. On May 21, we’ll honor the Class of 2020, whose in-person graduation two years ago was stymied by the virus. The next day, members of the Class of 2022 will walk across the stage on Malesardi Quad.

By giving our 2020 graduates a ceremony, albeit a delayed one, we’re once again demonstrating, as we have many times during the last two years, that we’ll not let the wily virus have the last word.


Back in March 2020, I made a difficult decision — telling our students to pack up early from spring break, go home and finish the semester remotely. Almost overnight, our Library & Information Technology team shifted into overdrive and activated a virtual, on-demand remote system for our dedicated faculty to continue educating our students.

Those working in L&IT were among the many who enabled us to continue our mission: to educate students for a lifetime of critical thinking and strong leadership characterized by continued intellectual exploration, creativity and imagination.

As you read in prior issues of this magazine, once we returned to in-class instruction in fall 2020, we had volunteers galore stepping up far outside their job descriptions to keep our campus humming: advancement officers delivered meals to quarantined students, videographers served as contact tracers, and coaches directed traffic, greeted families, conducted health screenings and distributed room keys during move-in week. Several faculty members even sewed and distributed masks for the Lewisburg community.

I’m so proud of what we collectively accomplished — something many far wealthier institutions didn’t even attempt: We stayed open through this pandemic, we were here for our students, and we were here for one another.


For that reason, I made an unconventional recommendation when I bestowed our annual Barry R. Maxwell Award for exceptional collaborative efforts. Past recipients of the award named for the late vice president for administration include the Coal Region Field Station, the Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures and, in 2020, the L&IT staff for its aforementioned pandemic performance.

Early this year, however, I announced that all Bucknell faculty and staff were Maxwell Award winners for this cycle. As an expression of gratitude, I sent every single employee a handsome certificate that signified the fact they were a part of this collaborative effort to keep this university not only open, but thriving. And for that I am forever grateful. Although our faculty and staff played diverse roles in our success, the common thread is the quality of the people who come to work here and teach here, and the love and devotion they have for this institution.


Appreciation for Bucknell’s dedicated workers formed a common theme during a Bucknell University Alumni Association board-sponsored conversation earlier this year. Before a Zoom audience of nearly 400 Bucknellians from around the world, our 13th president — my friend, mentor and compatriot Gary Sojka H’09 — and I also discussed what we do here that is unique among institutions of higher education.

During the last 10 years, we’ve built nine large-scale buildings, each of which will last 100 to 130 years or more. With three extremely competitive and successful colleges, we represent the spectrum of scholarly disciplines. Building programs at the intersection of the arts & sciences, management and engineering will give us a competitive edge. Simply put, few schools with which we compete for students can offer the breadth of our academic program coupled with a close-knit, caring campus community.

In large measure, what we’ve achieved through the collective efforts of our faculty, staff and students is to build a university for the future. Bucknell’s qualities that are rarely found elsewhere, in regard to scale, size and academic and residential opportunities, are the reason that so many people love this institution.

Copy of John C. Bravman signature

John C. Bravman