In Hurricane’s Wake, Open Door For One Student
As their daughter, Shelley Plude received her B.S. degree in Civil Engineering on Sunday, May 10, Ginna and Randy Plude of Middlefield, CT expressed their admiration for UConn in a message to President Michael Hogan and Dean of Engineering Mun Choi. They wrote:
“President Hogan and Dean Choi, you may not be aware. . . what a difference UConn made in the lives of several dozen students. When hurricane Katrina struck, in addition to displacing thousands from their home, thousands of students believed their college experiences washed away as well. In ours eyes, this graduating class is extra special because the class of 2009 is also the class of Katrina.”
Torn between UConn and Tulane, Shelley decided to “try something outside her usual comfort zone” and chose Tulane. In late August 2005, the Pludes packed up a car and headed to New Orleans to settle Shelley in her new digs on the Tulane campus. Within hours of their arrival, New Orleans was evacuated and the Plude family found themselves on a non-stop journey back to Connecticut — all the while fretful of the challenges of getting Shelley into college at such a late date.
Luckily, UConn was among the colleges to embrace displaced students. In their message, the Pludes said “In one day, Shelley was enrolled and assigned to a dorm. Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Marty Wood personally worked out her class schedule (thank you Marty for your exceptional support and kindness during that time). Even her textbooks were provided free of charge.”
“UConn, in our opinion, could not have done anything better to ease the transition and to help these kids get back on track and feeling productive again. . . .At the end of her ‘refuge’ semester, Tulane announced the elimination of their engineering school, another blow on top of an already difficult semester. Shelley decided UConn was the right place for her. She is a Husky through and through. She never looked back from that point on and we are so very proud of her success.”
The Pludes concluded their letter, “So as she graduates this year, we want to say a very special thank you to the UConn community. We will always remember that terrifying day in New Orleans, but even more so the very special day UConn opened their doors and said welcome.”
Shelley will pursue graduate studies in Structural Engineering at UConn in the fall.