Memo from President Charles W. Steger: The future of the Office of Recovery and Support
During the summer of 2007, the Office of Recovery and Support was created for the primary purposes of improving two-way communication with and facilitating provision of support services to the families of those who were killed on April 16, 2007, and also to those who were physically injured and their families. The work of the Office of Recovery and Support team has been incredibly demanding. Nevertheless, under the leadership of Jay Poole, they have done a truly outstanding job and have strengthened relationships with those who were injured and their families, and with the families that lost loved ones.
With Jay’s planned departure from the role of director in July, I have consulted a number of people and spent considerable time deliberating over the future of that office. We have been advised by colleagues at other institutions that have experienced similar tragedies that those who were directly affected by the events of April 16 will be looking to the university for various types of support for a number of years to come. Moreover, we have been told and have already witnessed ourselves that the families of those who were lost and the injured students will want to maintain long-term ties to the university. Needless to say, we also want to maintain that connection.
Tending to these relationships is consistent with the vision of the Alumni Association, which “aspires to be a primary linkage between the university and its family of alumni across the globe.” All of the injured students eventually will become alumni, and we wish to keep those families who lost loved ones engaged with the university (if that is their wish) — in much the same manner that we seek to engage alumni. Therefore, I have determined that it would be logical to move the Office of Recovery and Support under the senior management area of the Vice President for Alumni Relations, effective July 1, 2008.
At that time, Debbie Day will assume responsibilities as director of the Office of Recovery and Support in addition to her current duties as associate vice president for alumni relations. I envision that the office will continue to exist as a distinct office under Debbie’s direction (within the area of the Vice President for Alumni Relations) until all or most of the injured students have graduated — probably two more years — and then its functions, which will have scaled back naturally, will be absorbed into the Alumni Relations office.
Following is a discussion of the operations of the Office of Recovery and Support as of July 1.
The mission of the Office of Recovery and Support is unchanged: To provide support — specifically including improved two-way communication and facilitation of support services — for the families of those killed, the injured and their families, and others directly affected by the killings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Further, the Office of Recovery and Support is the central campus location to manage broader recovery efforts of the university community, such as commemoration activities.
In addition to Debbie Day as Director, the Office of Recovery and Support will include
- Megan Armbruster, who will continue to work with injured students and their families on a full-time basis as she pursues her Ph.D.;
- Scott Johnson, who will continue to work with the families of the deceased students on a part-time basis;
- Anna Beth Benningfield, who, as part of the Provost’s staff, will continue to work with faculty families on a part-time basis;
- Marilyn Hutchins, who will continue to work with injured students and their families and with families of deceased students on a part-time basis; and
- Pam Pettry, who will continue to provide full-time administrative support for the office.
At this time, I would also like to express both my personal and the university’s deepest appreciation to Jay Poole, Ellen Plummer (deputy director), Jerry Cain, Lisa Leslie, and Renae Criner for their invaluable contributions as their work with the office nears an end.
The Office of Recovery and Support will continue to occupy its existing space in the Corporate Research Center for the next year, after which time the office may move into space in the Alumni Center or elsewhere that better suits the needs of the office at that time.
In closing, I have great confidence in Debbie, Scott, Megan, Anna Beth, Marilyn, and Pam and deeply appreciate their willingness to serve the university and those who were directly affected by the April 16 tragedy in this most meaningful way as we move forward. And, I know they will appreciate your support.