President Robert N. Shelton's e-mail inbox was flooded with messages following President Barack Obama's visit to campus for "Together We Thrive: Tucson & America."
The Jan. 12 event touched people across the world and many were moved to send notes expressing their gratitude to the UA for hosting the event.
A number of the writers were alumni. Others had no connection to the UA before watching the televised event in their living rooms halfway across the country.
The following are excerpts from a few of the e-mails.
May I compliment you, Dr. Shelton, on the impressive manner in which you conducted the moving memorial service to the victims of the tragic event in Tucson, last Saturday morning. The whole memorial service, last evening, had a profoundly spiritual and even poetic nuance, which was underlined by your poetic recitation at the very end of the ceremony. The speech by President Obama could only be described as masterly, moving, and exhibiting leadership of the highest order. … I am not an American; and I am writing this from southern Africa: to show solidarity with you at this time of the grievous wounds to your lovely Senator (sic), Gabrielle, whom we all hope survives her ordeal and lives to inspire us further with her selfless and heroic public service.
Peter Hancock, PhD
Maseru, Lesotho, Africa
It was such a heartfelt tribute, and it touched everyone’s hearts. I have never been so proud of our University. Beyond honoring all who died in this tragedy, the survivors, and the heroes, it was a wonderful showcase of the University and a tremendous forum for President Obama to demonstrate to the nation just what a compassionate, great leader he is and how we all have to learn to think of others and not just ourselves. … A heartfelt thank you for putting together the memorial event, Together We Thrive, at the University of Arizona. You assisted thousands of Tucsonans in the healing process and brought forth so much compassion and empathy for all to see and feel. … I have never been prouder to be a Wildcat!
As I watched your speech last night, I thought, "My God, what an experience it is that you are speaking to the entire United States of America as a university president." As you are obviously well-prepared in public speaking in order to address faculty, staff, students and parents, I was still amazed at your poise, confidence, and overall speech. Quite frankly I think you did an excellent job. The situation you had to speak about was so difficult, for all of you as Tusconians and Arizonans, and for us all as Americans. Personally, I felt very moved by your words and how you spoke about bringing everyone together under the American umbrella vs. party politics. … Your two students, the student body president and Mr. Hernandez, were excellent speakers who moved an entire nation with their words. Wow. You are obviously educating your students very well! I will be encouraging my children to look into the University of Arizona when they are college age. Thank you for your eloquent, empowering, and healing words. The best to you in your own personal, campus, city, and state healing.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
I thought the event yesterday was fantastic. ... Your staff and students ran a great and complex event and it really set a great tone of moving forward on the right foot.
Arizona State University
I want to congratulate you and U of A for the event. As you mentioned, we have to know and care each other to have better communities and countries. The process of healing will be long and sad but leaders like you will make things easier and comfortable for all the persons affected by the terrible event from last Saturday. One life means a lot. Now, the most important issue is to learn from that sad experience and move forward, creating better students, better citizens, better men and women. All of us should be involved in this responsibility.
Oscar Palacio Soto
Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico
I watched the memorial service at the airport on my way home. I was impressed by your role and the rest of the UA and Tucson community. You made us all very proud.
John D. Haeger
Northern Arizona University
As a resident of this community for more than 45 years I have seen several great presidents of the University and you are no exception. My wife and I were very impressed with the service at McKale that was orchestrated with such alacrity and professionalism by you and your staff. It was a healing moment to be proud of and we congratulate you. The venue was perfect, the audience respectful and yet appreciative and supportive, the speakers used well-chosen words and we thought you were precise in your introductions and acknowledgments. We thank you and all of your staff.
Norm Komar, MD, and Charlotte Komar
Together We ALL Thrived. The Tucson community and the University of Arizona gave the nation hope for a better tomorrow. Words cannot portray your gift to the nation to turn the horrific tragedy on Saturday into a change for the better, an opportunity to thrive together. You, Emily, Daniel, the students, the faculty, the administration, and the UMC staff made me proud and it gave me resolve to do more.
San Mateo, California
I was among the 30,000 Tucsonans who attended yesterday’s memorial service at the University of Arizona. Certainly I consider myself one of the lucky ones to get in to McKale Center and I wanted to thank you personally for organizing a tremendous memorial service for our community and for the nation. By coming together as we did yesterday the grief that we all feel was somewhat replaced with a sense of community and hope. I count myself blessed to have been with my fellow Tucsonans/Arizonans/Americans to participate in what was a very moving and I think healing evening for us all. Thank you for opening up the campus to us all. Thank you for your wonderful words of wisdom, encouragement and introduction for the distinguished guests that were in attendance last night. Thank you very much and I hope that you came away from last night with a sense for the gratitude so many of us feel for the memorial service. Thank you.
I just finished watching the wonderful and touching memorial service for the survivors and victims of the "Tragedy in Tucson." You and your colleagues and your students truly brought out the best and most hopeful face of Arizona, outshining by far that dark moment on Saturday. … I thank you for this thoughtful, gentle and respectful program. Your university may always be known for various academic achievements and research but right now I think all Americans see the University of Arizona as the place where civil people gathered to give and receive love and reverence.
I was very proud of my institution – beautiful ceremony and so complete. I kept wondering how/who came together to organize all the pieces. Lots of credit needs to go to several people, I'm sure. … Feedback from the news channels last night and talk today – they don't understand our cheering. I guess everyone expected a somber event, but it is hard to explain to people that our pride had been pieced to shreds and we needed to tell the world about our love of the Tucson we know. UMC's outstanding response to this event, and Gabby's ties to UA, I think, just added to the need for the crowd, and us, to move forward from the sadness, count our blessings and tell the world what we think of our community and our UA roots.
I was heartened by the president's speech Wednesday night and, like President Obama, I hope that good will come out of all this chaos and sadness. The U of A did a great job of hosting and supporting his visit and all the events that have centered on the campus and medical center.
Dr. April L. Osborn
(Typos, misspellings and punctuation have been corrected.)