By BETHANY FOX
This semester has been an extremely difficult one, especially for Amarillo College’s president, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart. Challenging decisions have been necessary in order to keep our campuses and community safe. In return, the college has been able to manage COVID fairly well, Lowery-Hart said.
The president says his top priority is the safety of people on campus. In order to do that, the college continually evaluates the active cases. “If our rates start mirroring our communities, we then discuss different responses,” Lowery-Hart said. “So far, our plan has kept our numbers well below the region and state.”
The most burdensome decision Lowery-Hart said he has made was when he chose to allow staff and limited students to return to campus in July. “That was the toughest for me because it was the most uncertain and I was worried people would wear masks and we’d have an outbreak and people would die,” Lowery-Hart explained. “We make important decisions about the direction of our college and community, but I’ve never had to make decisions that could be life or death.”
Even though this transition was scary, Lowery-Hart said he trusted the science. “Science told us that if we wear masks, socially distance and wash our hands — we could work and stay protected. There is no secret code to leading and managing in this pandemic so we followed the science, picked our path, and then monitored the numbers to ensure that it worked.”
While leading the college through this pandemic, Lowery-Hart has recognized the toll it has taken. “I’ve really, really struggled personally and professionally and I’ve not managed the burden well,” Lowery-Hart said. In order to stay positive, he said he has found some practical ways to alleviate
the burden. “Reading helps – even if it’s just for fun. Staying virtually connected to faculty and staff has also helped.”
Lowery-Hart encourages students and staff to remain vigilant. “It looks like a vaccine is coming in the spring, so we just have a few more months of diligence — and we must remain diligent until we can move beyond the pandemic,” he said.