Notes from the President

Chris Gray, Ph.D. | Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

As I write today, much of the continental United States is under some kind of weather watch or warning thanks to the emergence of Winter Storm Elliott. speculates that Erie County is anticipating a “Multi-hazard winter storm with a combination of strong winds, very cold temperatures, snow, and blowing snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 6 to 15 inches. Highest snowfall amounts likely in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Winds gusting as high as 65 mph. Dangerously cold wind chills expected. Wind chills as low as 30 below zero.” Those are hurricane-force winds in December!

According to Apple News this morning, the National Weather Service has dubbed this a “once-in-a-generation type event.” With the arrival of this “bomb cyclone” (no, I didn’t make that up), much of the country is likely to see major travel disruptions in the coming holidays. Almost 2000 flights have been canceled already, and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I hit the road early today to try to stay ahead of it, but I’m told that the snow has already started in my home state. So this could take a while.

All of this is to say that the holidays, a time already characterized by elevated hustle and bustle, are likely to be even more frustrating this year for many people, and it’s both easy and tempting just to focus on that. I’m not going to do the easy thing, however. Last year, I talked about the significance of the winter solstice to many of the major world religions, and I don’t want to repeat myself here. That said, there is something that shifts as the days begin once again to grow incrementally longer; the light is returning, however slowly.  

There are nine days left in 2022, and then we close this chapter and usher in 2023. Looking back, it’s been another exciting year for EC3; we’ve added programs and welcomed new students. We’ve grown in important ways, and we are excited for what comes next. At the same time, we realize that 2022 was an incredibly challenging year for many of our students. From the inflation-related economic instability to losing family members, I’ve seen our students struggle with so many different things over the last year, and yet they continued to show up. Our numbers continue to grow at EC3, and we hope to continue to expand our offerings and enrollment in the year to come. We continue our student-centered approach and work toward academic accreditation. That’s not new, but it sure feels exciting.

As my last post of this year, I find it fitting once again to evoke Janus, the ancient two-faced Roman god who heralds new beginnings as he both looks forward and backward. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done and excited about the work to be begun. I’m looking forward to some downtime with my family back in Illinois, and I’m glad that our team gets to enjoy some much-deserved time away. And for those who celebrate, it looks like much of the country will be able to enjoy a white Christmas. It may be a function of my age, but I remember December being much snowier in my youth; of late, snow in December seems to be the exception rather than the rule. It looks like there will be no shortage this year! As snow blankets the country, my hope for all is that we are able to take a collective pause in the next few days, rest, reflect, and raise a glass to “Auld Lang Syne.” I wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons, and stay safe out there!