UST Unites In Wake of Hurricane Ike
The University of St. Thomas may have closed for Hurricane Ike, but true to form, UST’s close-knit community was at work helping each other long before the University officially reopened.
UST’s characteristic spirit of community was visible and palpable as faculty, staff and students collaborated throughout the week. Security, Facilities, Information Technology, Custodial Services and many other employees worked long hours for the duration of the week. Students evacuated together, as Houston area residents offered accommodations to out-of-state and international students. Faculty and staff assisted ground crews to clean up storm debris. A team of volunteers helped remove books from the Doherty Library basement. Numerous meetings were held to revise academic and event schedules. Through it all, keeping everyone informed was a top priority as updates were communicated through the new Emergency Notification System and volunteers staffed the hotline phone to answer questions.
“The teamwork of the UST community has been amazing," said Dr. Robert Ivany. “The spirit of cooperation has been contagious as everyone pitched in to keep essential services and information channels operating. We have met every challenge Hurricane Ike threw at us.”
UST Students Share Storm Stories
As UST residence halls reopened after Hurricane Ike on Monday, Sept. 22, Guinan Hall residents returned bearing armloads, and even shopping carts full of possessions back to their on-campus homes. Several students paused to swap storm stories.
Nicole Keith and a fellow UST student from Oklahoma rode out the storm at Keith’s home in Pearland. “I was grateful to come back to the comforts of power here at UST and get back to normal. I’m glad to know that we still have our campus. I know that Houston was hit hard and I’m glad that we were able to bounce back and keep the city and the University going.”
Maria Cooz is an international student from Venezuela. Cooz evacuated and went to Montgomery for three days, and returned to Houston to stay with one of the Guinan Hall Resident Assistants. “I would recommend that every international student should have a UST buddy in case of an emergency situation. When you have no family here, and you have to evacuate, you need to have a plan to go with someone.”
Bensy Benny watched as the ceilings of the home her family built in Friendswood collapsed. Luckily, her family was in the process of relocating to another home, so they had somewhere else to stay. After the storm, her family alternated between the two homes, moving their possessions, using the few functioning facilities in one and sleeping in the new house. “Everyone was safe, and that’s what mattered.”
Leslie Meigs lives in north Houston near Spring, and fortunately, her home was spared.
“I feel blessed and fortunate that we didn’t have any damage to our house. It was a reality check moment when you know something bad could really happen. My family is very religious, so we spent a lot of time in prayer before the hurricane.”
The beginning of the fall semester brings stress for everyone, add to that the uncertainty, possible trauma and loss resulting from a hurricane. Numerous events were held around campus and resources have been available to help to ease the transition back to campus. Everything from a Welcome Back Booth to a “Take a Hike, Ike” campus art project and a special Mass in memory of the hurricane victims helped the UST community regroup, unwind, express concern, and cope with post-hurricane stress and unite in prayer.
Dr. Rose Signorello, Executive Director of Counseling, Wellness and Disability Services, provided a list of coping strategies o help those are struggling to recover from the emotional trauma of Hurricane Ike. View coping strategies.
“During these challenging days after Hurricane Ike, our offices are open for anyone who would like to talk confidentially about their experiences stress or more intense emotional distress,” Signorello said. Call 713-525-2169 for more information.
Financial Aid Adjustments
Scott Moore, Dean of Scholarships and Financial Aid said, “We understand that this has been a hardship for many of our students. Students who have experienced a financial loss due to Hurricane Ike can contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid so we can look into adjusting financial aid as necessary.” Call 713-525-3661 for more information
As the University begins to return normalcy, many campus community members have inquired about how to offer assistance to our fellow Houstonians who are still in need.
“Our own hearts feel lighter when we reach out to others during this unsettling time following Hurricane Ike,” Office of Volunteer Opportunities Director Ellie Collier said. “There are so many ways to help.” There are countless service agencies in the area that need volunteers, there is no better time to lend a hand, she said.
For more information about hurricane relief service projects, contact the Office of Volunteer Opportunities (OVO) at 713-525-3800 or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). The OVO is located on the second floor of Crooker Center in the Michael Leavitt Room.
Photos top to bottom: a Doherty Library student worker organizes books displaced after volunteers removed the books from the flooded basement. Students return to Guinan Hall from the Hurricane Ike evacuation. Felipe De Leon keeps relocated mail services running after the General Office was damaged by flooding. The office of UST President Dr. Ivany suffered severe water damage to the walls and ceilings. Boxes in the Link Lee Mansion basement became waterlogged when the basement flooded.