2020 Year in Review - Reflection by Dr. Connolly

Dec. 14, 2020

2020 has been a most challenging year for all of humanity – a year like no other. This is my reflection on how, with the Lord’s many blessings, JPCatholic navigated this year.

  1. Our COVID Response
  2. At the core of our response is the deep commitment and steely determination of our faculty and staff to serve daily our students and their formation to Impact Culture for Christ.

    At the onset of the global crisis in March 2020, we had just finished our Winter quarter. We did not have to send our students home because, unlike most colleges and universities, they all lived in apartments. Thanks to the agility of our staff and faculty, we pivoted immediately to offer all classes fully online for Spring quarter – with 40% of our students remaining residential. We expected in-person learning would resume mid-quarter, believing the much-hyped promise of 15-days to flatten the curve. That did not happen.

    As Spring quarter was drawing to a close, the County of San Diego Office of Public Health erroneously approved the re-opening of colleges. This announcement brought 80% of our residential students back on-campus, only to find that their classes would remain fully online for Summer quarter.

    Finally, in mid-August, San Diego County approved limited in-person college classes for Fall. Then, in early October, we began classes in 3 modalities (in-person, online and hybrid) and with 95% of our residential students back on-campus. In mid November, in yet another transition, in-person classes were forced outdoors and into tents. This lasted through the end of Fall quarter. Thank God Escondido's beautiful weather is conducive for outdoor classes. As we anticipate Winter quarter, starting in early January 2021, the exact teaching modalities are anything but clear - we are prepared for all options!

    The great success of our 2020 COVID response is a wonderful testimony to the immense positivity and unrelenting commitment of our students. Just 3 students contracted COVID and all quickly recovered, praise God. Thanks to the accommodating attitudes of the students impacted and our rapid quarantining, we experienced zero community spread. Overwhelmingly, our students embraced the challenging situation and made the best of it, while advancing in their studies, working together on projects, and benefitting appreciably from living in community with their peers.

    The routine of our academic life continued without pause in 2020 thanks to our highly effective online learning platform. With our faculty’s rapid embrace and effective use of our new teaching tools, classes continued as scheduled. In late August, to allow our 71 newly minted graduates to celebrate their monumental life accomplishment with their families and close friends, we held a very successful COVID compliant 1-on-1 graduation ceremony. All together, 52 families participated and and I felt deeply honored to spend time in joyful celebration with all of them.

    In the Fall, 90% of our large incoming freshmen began their classes in-person and on-campus – the other 10% were fully online. They come from all over the US and a few are international. They display a great love for Jesus, have strong academic capabilities, and possess a deep passion for our mission to Impact Culture for Christ. We place a particular importance on our freshman year experience. It is that critical time for them to become part of our dynamic and faith-filled community, to grow, to build strong and long-lasting friendships, and to form the mindset, which will serve as the foundation for their journey to graduation and beyond.

    While many private colleges had their total enrollment decline this Fall – we were blessed to grow modestly. Our community feels richly blessed.

  3. Our Financial Stewardship
  4. 2020 has been a very tough year financially for much of higher education. Maintaining superior financial stewardship has been a key operational hallmark of JPCatholic from the beginning. We closed our 2019-20 fiscal year in the black — as we have done every year since our founding in 2003. Praise God. Since 2005, we have proudly leveraged our cumulative $10M in philanthropy investment from generous benefactors to award $26M in scholarships and to acquire $8M in property & equipment assets ($5M in net assets) including 4 buildings at the core of our Escondido campus. We believe this is stellar financial stewardship.

  5. Our Scholarship Fund
  6. The availability of adequate financial aid is critical to attracting the very best students to move our mission to Impact Culture for Christ forward. It requires extraordinary generosity. The demand for scholarship aid has never been greater, as many families who really seek Catholic higher education have been horribly impacted financially by COVID. Our ability to provide more aid is directly tied to the extraordinary generosity of our benefactors. As much as you can, please help us keep our education accessible and affordable. You may give securely online or mail your gift to JPCatholic, 220 W Grand Ave, Escondido, CA 92025.

  7. Our 2021 Aspirations
  8. St. John Paul the Great, in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte marking the end of the 2000 jubilee year, begins with: Duc in altum [put out into the deep]! These words … invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence.

    These words describe: the gratitude which fills our hearts for all our students and their parents, our staff, faculty, trustees and benefactors; the contagious enthusiasm of our students, particularly our new freshman, as we finished this school year on December 11th; and the confidence with which we move forward into the unknown that is 2021.

    We have confidence that the Lord will touch the hearts of our generous benefactors to expand our Scholarship Fund and when the time is right, gift us with the funds to complete the renovations of both our Chapel and our Creative Arts Academic Building. All in God’s hands and all in God’s time.

    May the Lord richly bless you this Christmas season.


    Derry Connolly PhD, Founding President