It was “soul crushing” for Templar Yearbook co-Editor-in-Chief Leilani Henson when the 2019-20 yearbooks couldn’t be distributed after Temple University shut down in-person instruction in March 2020 due to COVID-19.
The 2020 yearbook arrived on campus last month and the 2021 yearbook is currently being published. The Templar staff expects both books to be distributed to students by May.
Due to nationwide shutdowns, yearbook printing company Herff Jones couldn’t continue to print the 2020 yearbooks or deliver them to campus. As Temple’s campus closed in March 2020 and many students relocated out of Philadelphia, schools weren’t able to distribute the 2019-20 yearbooks to students.
Templar completed the 2020 yearbook in February 2020, but Henson didn’t see it in print until it was published last month.
“I kind of treated this book like my baby last year,” said Henson, a senior journalism major. “It was like something that was really important to me, obviously, because like, my name is on it, and it holds a lot of weight.”
The yearbook is typically finished in February and printed by Herff Jones in March, then is delivered to campus by April. Once it’s delivered and schools submit their orders to Templar, they begin distributing the books to seniors, Henson said.
Henson came into the 2020-21 school year confident the team would complete the yearbook but knew reduced campus operations due to COVID-19 and remote work would present challenges to reporting stories and filling all 256 pages of the yearbook, she said.
“It was a lot of hard work on behalf of the staff and myself, but we got it done,” Henson said. “I would never want our staff to feel like they couldn’t get something done just because the circumstances were bad because they’re such a talented group.”
Instead of in-person interviews and photoshoots, sources interviewed through Zoom or on the phone and sent in photos, which presented challenges to meeting deadlines, said Riley Rubiano, a senior advertising major and co-editor-in-chief of Templar.
Although there were fewer in-person activities and events to cover this year because of reduced in-person campus operations, the yearbook’s stories show how the Temple community made the best of COVID-19 circumstances, like students learning new hobbies during quarantine and student organizations hosting virtual events, Rubiano said.
“We were able to focus our stories much more on people, like what people were doing during this time, and gave it much more of a personal feel,” Rubiano said. “Everybody is going through this, and this is how people are adjusting.”
Templar art director Jake Fittipaldi said not being able to sit next to the other designers and create together in the same space made it difficult to maintain a consistent theme in the book.
Fittipaldi feels the 2021 yearbook is an important edition because of how the articles in it address global issues like the pandemic, he said.
“What happened last year was really, really unfortunate, we worked on that book for hours and hours last year,” said Fittipaldi, a junior media studies and production major. “We have the highest of hopes that that will not happen, and we’ve kinda put things in place so that it doesn’t.”
The Klein College of Media and Communication began distributing the 2020 yearbooks in the atrium of Annenberg Hall on Feb. 15, said Dawn Ramos, director of administration at Klein.
Klein does not have a plan for getting the 2020 books to alumni who can’t come to Temple’s campus, Ramos added.
Anthony Petrole, a 2020 finance and accounting alumnus, now lives in Manayunk, so traveling to campus to get the yearbook is inconvenient, he said. He hopes to add the book to his graduation mementos, like his graduation tassels and pictures.
“It’s something you want to get and have when you graduate, you know, it’s your yearbook,” Petrole said. “When you want to look back to the year you graduated, your first instinct is, ‘Oh, let me go look at my yearbook.’”
Amid challenges to completing the 2021 yearbook and safety concerns for staff members and sources, Henson is glad the staff did not have to cut page numbers or reduce the amount of content that is typically seen in the book.
“I didn’t want the entire book to just be like a COVID sob fest,” Henson said. “I want this to be something that’s reflective of the year. Yes, we are in a pandemic. Yes, we cannot be in person. But I want us to focus on the good aspects.”