2020 has certainly been full of challenges. Melinda and I are proud to be associated with faculty, staff and students whose remarkable resilience during these difficult times helped UCF flourish as a metropolitan research university and continue to reach new heights in academic, operational and inclusive excellence.

While we know that many are still struggling, we remain hopeful that things will get better soon because we have been privileged to witness all the ways you’ve made a difference during the pandemic — from the small acts of kindness you have performed to improve others’ days to the larger acts of triumphs that will benefit all of us.

Fellow Knight Darin Edwards ’97 ’10MS ’11PhD has applied his degrees in biology, molecular biology and biomedical sciences to help protect all of us from COVID-19. He led the research and development of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine, which today moved one step closer to receiving emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. In clinical studies, Moderna’s vaccine has proven 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19 and 100% effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19.

When the hardest hit areas in our nation needed help, Assistant Professor of Nursing Frank Guido-Sanz, Associate Professor of Medicine Jeff LaRochelle, alumni Jason Duprat ’09BSN and Stephen Brennan ’15 answered the call, leveraging their expertise to serve on the National Disaster Medical System’s Trauma and Critical Care Team and on the front lines in makeshift hospitals and converted ICU facilities.

Seniors in our engineering program applied what they have learned during their time at UCF to create low-cost ventilators that could help with supply shortages, more than 700 students applied to become contact tracers to help limit COVID-19 on campus and in the community and UCF professors helped launch the nation’s first support center to help professors at other universities adjust to remote teaching.

But most importantly, all of you worked hard to make this year as smooth and successful as possible for our students — whether teaching, mentoring or supporting with your generosity during Giving Tuesday or by purchasing masks that give back to emergency student funds.

Seeing all of you use your expertise to help others fuels our sense of hope, despite months of unpredictability and concern. It reinforces our belief in the power of education to transform lives and the power of people to make the world a better place.

As we break for the holidays, we hope you take care of yourselves and connect with family and friends, virtually and in-person where possible and safe to do so. And we hope you continue to take care of each other — because helping others is what Knights do.

Alexander and Melinda Cartwright
UCF President and First Lady