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The Journey Ahead

Highly qualified professionals on the Anderson University COVID-19 Task Force work hard and well as team of servant leaders


When COVID-19 first appeared in the news in early 2020, people didn’t imagine that the virus would turn the world upside down. 

After working on the Anderson University COVID-19 Task Force together since March 2, Executive Director of Public Relations Andrew Beckner, Senior Vice President for Student Development Dr. Jim Fereira and College of Health Professions Dean Dr. Don Peace are amazed by the effectiveness and collective expertise of the group.

“We’re in good hands,” Beckner said.

President Evans P. Whitaker convened a group to make recommendations for what AU should do to protect the campus. Fereira said the group started with about 10 people and has more than doubled to 23 members.

Beckner said that the goal of the Task Force was not only to focus the collective energy and expertise of faculty and staff to protect the health and safety of students, but also to project calm in the face of the crisis. Fereira said the Task Force also worked on moving students out of their residence halls after spring break and helped students complete the academic year online. After the semester’s conclusion, the Task Force worked long hours all summer to help organize Base Camp (new student orientation), transition faculty and staff members back to campus in early July and launch the Journey Ahead, the University’s “stronger together” approach to reopening campus.

Beckner has been amazed by the expertise of Task Force members and how they have employed their professional relationships to help the campus community weather the COVID-19 storm.

Each member of the COVID team brought key skill sets to the table and worked beautifully together.

— Dr. Don Peace

Dean of the College of Health Professions

Dr. Peace is a great example. Before coming to Anderson University, he directed the South Carolina Office of Public Health Preparedness within the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC.) There, he honed skills in emergency management planning and worked with hospitals on the development of pandemic flu response scenarios. Dr. Peace also served as a respiratory therapist, which gave him a deep understanding of COVID-19’s effects on the body, the treatment patients need and the disease’s lasting impact on the lungs.

“I worked in critical care,” Dr. Peace said, adding that this experience gives him insight into infectious diseases and how treating the disease—with its long hours—drains staff members of health care systems. Then there’s the psychological and physical toll for caregivers who are still working to fight the pandemic. 

Assistant Professor of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Dr. Howard Murphy is another COVID-19 Task Force member whose experiences help the group envision, plan and execute sound emergency plans. Dr. Murphy has 35 years of experience in emergency services management, having served 33 years in the military and 23 years in homeland security.

Dr. Peace led the Task Force’s health team, meeting regularly with colleagues at DHEC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies. Dr. Peace reported back to the Task Force the latest information from public health officials. In a similar way, Dr. Murphy met with county, state and local first responders about the latest pandemic news and actions that could impact the Anderson University community.

Beckner and Peace said they were impressed by how everyone in the diverse Task Force worked together to develop a comprehensive and integrated response plan for the University.  

“Each team member of the COVID team brought key skill sets to the table and worked beautifully together,” Peace said.

Anderson University COVID-19 Task Force members have been stretched by the massive workload. Nevertheless, Dr. Fereira said each person on the team approached their role as servant leaders, counting it joy to help protect the University they each love.

The Journey Ahead: For the latest information about the work of the Anderson University COVID-19 Task Force, please visit


Fereira says the Task Force is organized by teams that handle different aspects of University operations. The acronym HELPS refers to the following:



“H” stands for “Host.”

The Host team creates plans and procedures to enable students to safely move in, live, gather in small groups, worship, exercise and dine on campus. Representatives from Residence Life, Student Activities, Campus Ministries and other offices contribute to these plans.


“E” stands for “Engage.”

The Engage team develops COVID-19-related protocols that connect the University to the external community, such as AU’s recruitment and admissions functions and the acquisition of equipment.


“L” stands for “Learn.”

Directed by Provost Ryan Neal, the Learn team directs how the University will continue educating students during the pandemic.


“P” stands for “Protect.”

The Protect team makes sure AU follows best practices regarding the wearing of masks or face coverings, physical distancing, sanitizing and other physical aspects of keeping the campus community healthy and safe.


And “S” stands for “Serve.”

The Serve team makes recommendations on how to support AU’s employees during the pandemic.