Kendal_WhitfordA few months ago, Kendal Whitford ’20 was enjoying her senior year, friends, classes and campus job in the office of Student Experience. She had started her internship at Wellbrooke, a senior living facility in Wabash, Ind., and loved it. She looked forward to Commencement in May, her wedding in September and starting her career in nursing home administration.

Then the pandemic hit.

“I am heartbroken,” says Kendal, who finished her last three courses remotely. “I am a very social person. I love seeing my professors and peers daily, so I am very sad to have lost the rest of my senior year without those experiences.”

2020 will be seared in her memory as the year that upended everything.

 “I know that moving classes remotely was for the safety of everyone,” says Kendal. “I agreed with it.” Like other seniors, though, she was looking forward to the rites of spring at Manchester – presenting her research, Giving Day, May Day, ceremonies, banquets, celebrations and bittersweet goodbyes to people and a place she had come to love.

The senior from Rockville, Ind., earned her degree in educational studies in May, along with minors in psychology and gerontology. Commencement “is something I have looked forward to since high school,” said Kendal. “I never thought I would make it through college. It seemed like a far-fetched dream.”

The dream almost didn’t come true. Kendal felt lost when she first arrived at Manchester and wondered, “Why am I even here?”

The answer became clear as she started to make friends, get involved with student activities and appreciate the sense of community at MU. “Being involved, I made friends. I made relationships. It gave me something to be proud of,” she says.

She can also take pride in her work ethic. As a high school student, she was the main caregiver for her grandparents. She worked at a nursing home for three years and earned her Certified Nursing Assistant license. Since shortly after arriving at Manchester, she worked in the Student Experience office. “That’s my family,” Kendal says of the staff. “I’m going to miss them dearly.”

For now, Kendal waits for the pandemic to ease and the economy to rebound. Her parents now live in Davenport, Fla., so she’s been staying with them since spring break.  

“I would love to be in a nursing home facility, but it is hard right now with the pandemic,” says Kendal. At this point, she says, she just wants stability.

Kendal and her fiancé, Alex, still plan marriage, but a September wedding is uncertain. “The last thing I want to do is put any of our loved ones at risk … Everything planning-wise is on hold,” she adds.  “It is very hard emotionally.”

By Melinda Lantz ’81