Students and president laugh on video chat
By Roanoke College News

President Maxey shares virtual dinner with on-campus students

Two dozen students remain on the Roanoke College campus, there because they are working essential on-campus jobs or because they are unable to return to hometowns and home countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, President Mike Maxey and his wife, Terri, invited all of them into their home for dinner, virtually.

The Maxeys organized the dinner, which was held via Zoom, to give the on-campus students a chance to unwind and to have some social interaction, as they’ve been isolated on campus for more than a month. Nine of them got “together” on Thursday night for the meal.

The attendees shared quesadillas, chips and brightly-colored Jarritos sodas (a soft drink brand from Mexico), supplied by Salem restaurant Muchacho Alegre. They talked about how beautiful campus is, and how they’re holding up without fellow students around. They talked about what their families did for special dinners. 

They also talked about what it’s been like to be on campus during a beautiful spring without anybody to share it with. President Maxey talked about his nightly walks and how the empty campus reminds him of how this time of year usually is bustling with activity. 

“It makes me miss everybody,” Maxey said. “This is the time of year we’re all going 100 miles an hour, and this year we’re going three miles an hour. It’s just strange and I miss it so much.”

The Maxeys were in their kitchen, with Terri Maxey sitting at the counter and President Maxey standing closer to the camera, wearing a “Noke” baseball cap. Terri Maxey also said walking through campus makes her long for the students to return.

“I miss you so much I can't stand it,” she said. “I really do. I walk through campus and it’s such a pretty spring, and there are just not enough people here to enjoy the beauty of it.”

Mostly, the students and Maxeys talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s affecting every corner of the world. Students shared stories of the effects of the pandemic in such countries as South Korea, Argentina, United Arab Emirates and Mongolia. In a fascinating conversation, the students and Maxeys spoke of the similarities and differences in how governments and families around the world have responded to the pandemic.

“I miss you so much I can't stand it. I really do. I walk through campus and it’s such a pretty spring, and there are just not enough people here to enjoy the beauty of it.”

Terri Maxey

While Boogii Gankhuyag ‘22 said the outbreak in his home country of Mongolia is fairly under control, Jackie Hernandez ‘21 said there are 28,000 cases in her home county on Long Island, New York. 

Gaston Ocampo ‘20 said he and his parents can’t get back to their home country of Argentina right now because the country is under martial law. Meanwhile, Lucas Figlietti ‘23 said his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, is starting to reopen its beaches, and that has him concerned.

Students also talked about how they’ve adjusted to remote learning, laughing about some of the hoops they’ve had to jump through, and the challenges they’ve faced being apart from faculty and fellow students.

Students were extremely appreciative of the Maxeys spending time with them. Mary Rose Stark ‘21, who came to Roanoke from her home in Boulder City, Nevada, said her family was impressed that the Maxeys were taking the time to sit down with students.

“I told my parents about this and they were really surprised,” Stark said. “They were like, ‘This is exactly why we’re comfortable with you going to school 2,000 miles away — because you have a school that cares about you and your well-being.’”

Ocampo said the dinner was another example of Maroons finding ways to stay connected.

“The Roanoke Difference is the community, and that community’s still as strong as ever even when students are not here,” Ocampo said.

President Maxey was up-front and honest with the students, saying the decisions of the past two months have been extremely difficult. He said he and Cabinet are making preparations for students to return in the fall, and that he is hopeful classes will resume then.