3 Questions for ...

Frank Kirkpatrick ’64
Interim Dean of Faculty

What about being dean of the faculty have you found most surprising?

“I knew at a theoretical level what the job involved because I’ve been here a long time and I had talked to previous deans. What I didn’t appreciate is the volume of issues that people have and that they want the dean to help them deal with. I also didn’t grasp the intensity of those concerns. That intensity made it very difficult at first to determine what should be my top priorities. There’s a concept in medicine known as triage—stop the bleeding for those people most likely to survive and put off those things that can be put off. I had to learn the principles of triage pretty quickly.

“I also didn’t fully appreciate that suddenly my relationships would change with people who I had been friends with for 30-plus years. I was no longer ‘just’ Frank; all of a sudden I was the dean. And, as the dean, you can’t avoid making decisions—sometimes hard, unpopular decisions.”

What lessons from your undergraduate experience at Trinity do you still benefit from today?

“I came of age, grew up, really, in this small liberal arts college environment during the most formative years of my life. From 1960 to 1964 I was immersed in that atmosphere. The sense of that community, the commitment to honest academic investigation and learning, has remained with me and helped to shape my vision of what Trinity has been and should continue to be.

“Although the College has essentially doubled in size since my days as a student and we’ve become a much more diverse community, the fundamental principles of the institution have remained constant even in the wake of enormous changes. We have a faculty of true scholar-teachers; we stress close interaction and collaboration among students and faculty.  I have tried to hold on to those principles as a member of the faculty and in my time as dean.”

As a professor of religion, and given the state of the world today, is religion a positive force?

“Religion is everything you can possibly say about it. It takes multiple forms in the world today, as it always has. As we have seen recently, it can be divisive and it can be radical. But it is also an agent for justice and for transformation, and it’s something that gives people deep personal meaning in their lives. It provides comfort and consolation for people in times of crisis. It is all of those things.

“Of course, because it is so central to what it means to be human, religion can be abused in a hundred different ways. Just as love, which is also central to human existence, can be abusive when it gets out of control and beyond appropriate boundaries. One thing that I’ve always tried to stress to my students is that when we talk about religion, we have to look at specific religions, in specific forms, at specific times in history. Religion is defined by how it is played out, and it is played out in a variety of very different ways around the world. A particular religion can be both good and bad, divisive and beneficial.  It can be virtually anything people want it to be.”

What they’re reading



What they’re reading…

Robin Sheppard,
Associate Director of Athletics and
Assistant Director of the First-Year Program

"Had I been asked what I was reading a month or so ago, I would have had to pass on this opportunity. My reading patterns range from feast to famine, but my preference is always the same: fiction.

"My summer months are flooded with a smorgasbord of books that I overdose on right up until the first day of fall classes when the drought begins. So as soon as grades were posted in December, I dusted off the jacket of a book that’s been on my shelf for three months patiently awaiting my return. Until I Find You, by John Irving (one of my favorite authors), is intimidating in its size (a couple inches thick) but with Irving’s traditional style of quirkiness and sadness blended with comedy, the first 100 pages have me captivated.

"So far a young boy, Jack, and his mother are searching for his absent father. They have traveled through several North Sea ports seeking this church-organist deadbeat dad, but always arrive within hours of tracking him down. Jack’s mother is a tattoo artist and they exist on money that she makes soliciting potential clients in fancy hotel lobbies. The missing dad is an “ink addict” a “collector” of tattoos and in every port he gets tattoos of lyrics from songs and won’t stop until his body is a sheet of music and every inch of skin covered with a note. Young Jack’s relationships and education are created from his memories of churches and tattoo parlors.

"Like I said—sad, funny, and definitely quirky! I hope to crack the next 725 pages before classes start, because then the spring drought begins."


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