It’s sometimes hard to remember that this year started out with a semblance of normalcy. Some students took J–Term study trips and sports teams were still competing into March as COVID-19 slowly began to dominate our lives. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers in May opened wounds and brought renewed calls for reform and racial justice to the streets. Suddenly, life before George Floyd’s death and the pandemic seemed like a distant memory.
After eight years working at St. Thomas, I still find comfort and joy in the academic community’s traditions. I photograph earnest freshmen taking their first, tentative steps through the Arches, full of hope and uncertainty about all of the possibilities before them. Four years later, I photograph these students again at graduation. I’ve gotten to know some of them well, and it’s easy to see how much they’ve grown and evolved during their four years here on campus.
This year, for obvious reasons, was completely different. Many of our community’s most hallowed traditions were canceled or transformed for the first time in the school’s history. Missing out on in-person commencement ceremonies, March Through the Arches and other events was a huge loss for everyone at St. Thomas. But that’s not what I’ll remember about this year. Instead, I’ll remember how this community came together in support of one another.
Faculty, staff and students sacrificed a lot over the past ten months. Looking back on this year through photos, I see a campus community that has admirably adapted and evolved during one of the most challenging years in recent memory.
Tiaryn Daniels walks across a bridge at Black Bayou in Glendora, Mississippi, in January during the We March For Justice study tour. The murder of Emmett Till unfolded in the area in 1955. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Kelly Coyne takes a shot on goal during a Women’s Lacrosse Game against the University of Minnesota at the UMN Sports Dome on February 22, 2020. This is the last sports event I photographed in 2020. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
A mural commemorating George Floyd at the site of his murder outside Cup Foods at the intersection of 38th and Chicago Avenue. The mural was created by artist Peyton Scott Russell. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
The statue of Archbishop John Ireland stands on the quad wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Dining services staffers Carl Littlejohn, left, and brother Anthony Littlejohn, right, pose for a photo in the Anderson Student Center. They were part of a team of critical employees ensuring that students and staff remaining on campus were looked after during the start of the pandemic. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Confetti canons shooting and exploding over the Arches in celebration of the 2020 graduating class in lieu of an in-person commencement ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
The wedding of Tony Eicher and Annie Dupslaff (both St. Thomas graduates) at the chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas in March. The couple chose to get married at St. Thomas with only Annie’s parents in attendance after their original plans were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
St. Thomas student Ulyses Perez Perez volunteers through the Center for the Common Good and Tommie Corps at Pillsbury United Communities in south Minneapolis. Nonprofits faced extra pressure to serve communities when the pandemic resulted in increased unemployment. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Target Field is lit in purple in celebration of the St. Thomas graduating class of 2020. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Student Alejandra Galo poses for a portrait on south campus in April. Galo is an international student from Honduras. She was unable to return home when her home country closed its borders. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Engineering Professor Dr. Katherine Acton prepares online learning lessons in the STELAR Media Studio in the O’Shaughnessy Frey Library. The ITS Department worked long hours to support faculty as some classes shifted online. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Construction projects transformed north campus in 2020. Tommie East Residence Hall, the Iversen Center for Faith and Tommie North Residence Hall are pictured from a drone in August. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
A construction crew installs a new University of St. Thomas monument sign at the corner of Cleveland and Selby. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
The lower quad, Monahan Plaza, Aquinas Hall and the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library are pictured under glowing pink skies on a beautiful summer night. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Professor Kyle Zimmer teaches an Environmental Studies class in Owens Science Hall in St. Paul on July 14, 2020. Professors and students across campus adopted masks and distancing in order to continue in-person learning. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Members of Air Force ROTC Detachment 410 participate in the opening ceremony of a 24 hour vigil honoring military service members missing in action or prisoners of war on the lower quad in November. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Students make a large snowman on the upper quad during a fall snowstorm in October. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Attendees take saliva tests during a COVID-19 testing event in the Field House in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex in St. Paul in November. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Aquinas Chapel and the Iversen Center for Faith glow at night during the first measurable snowfall of the year on October. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas