December 14, 2016

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,

We are wrapping up what has been a busy and, at times, intense semester here at Trinity College.  As with any semester, there have been ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, but this fall has been especially tumultuous!

Among many highlights this semester was the arrival of the Class of 2020, bringing new energy and excitement to campus.  I hear many anecdotes from professors, staff members, and upper-year students about how engaged our new students are in class discussions and in activities outside of the classroom.  In addition to new students, we welcomed new faculty, staff, and administrators to the Trinity community.

We continued our spiral upward in rankings, reputation, and retention – the three R’s.  I hope that every member of our community is filled with pride to see Bantams rise!

We also continued to focus on our current goals to build campus community, ensure academic excellence, foster institutional pride, and reach financial equilibrium, even as we plan strategically for the future.  Our bicentennial strategic planning effort shifted into high gear with more than 80 individuals participating on various committees and hundreds more (both on and off campus) offering feedback in a truly inclusive process.  One of the first outcomes of the strategic planning process was a new mission statement:

Engage.  Connect.  Transform.
As the preeminent liberal arts college in an urban setting, Trinity College prepares students
to be bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives.

We announced our long-awaited plans and timing for the Trinity College presence downtown at Constitution Plaza.  With our leasing arrangement complete, we are moving full steam ahead for a fall 2017 opening.

We also launched the Center for Caribbean Studies, supporting our academic mission and our engagement with the Hartford community.  With our distinct program in Trinidad and the large Caribbean population in the city of Hartford, our center builds on the unique strengths of our environment.

Many of our student-athletes played hard and played well in athletic competitions.  Of particular note, our football team went undefeated and won the NESCAC championship title, and our women’s soccer and field hockey teams ended their seasons with NCAA bids.  Whether our teams won or lost, we saw time and again how wholeheartedly our students pursued their endeavors and supported their teammates.

Magnificent performing arts graced our campus during the semester.  With this year’s Lessons and Carols, John Rose celebrated 40 marvelous years at Trinity College.  Generations of musicians came home to Trinity to pay homage to this master musician, filling the Chapel with joyful sounds.  A more heart-wrenching, but equally powerful experience came with our students performing The Laramie Project​, about the 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard.  Their riveting performance was informed by the opportunity to discuss in person the history behind the piece with Trinity alumnus Stephen Belber ’89, a Broadway-produced playwright and associate writer on The Laramie Project.

This fall, an especially low point was the collapse of a porch during a party at the beginning of the semester.  The community came together in support of our students, and I am grateful that there were no life-threatening injuries.  The incident caused us to focus our attention on the properties that we own and their condition.  We remain committed to the safety of all members of our community and to ensuring that all of our off-campus buildings are regularly inspected so that something like this does not occur again.

In November, I was impressed with how the community came together in the days after the unexpected results of the presidential election.  The sense of anxiety for many in the community was palpable, but somehow we were able to support each other across our differences.  In the spring semester, we will engage in dialogues analyzing the differences that split the American electorate.

Within just the past few weeks, the voices of the student group ACT: Action Coalition of Trinity have sought better support for and attention to the challenges of marginalized students.  These are difficult issues that we will continue to address next semester and beyond.  Our greatest contributions as a place of learning are to instill strong analytical skills and to promote civil discourse for a just and inclusive society.

Also in the next semester, we will continue the search for a Vice President for College Advancement to take over following Jack Fracasso’s retirement at the end of June.  I am pleased to share that the committee members for this important search are Peter Espy ’00, Joe Noonan ’03, Carrie Pelzel ’74, Allison Read, and Abby Williamson.  The committee will work closely with the search firm Ahl, Berrien & Partners.

As the semester closes, I would like to show my appreciation to Trinity staff and administrators for work well done during a particularly challenging semester.  I am adding to the presidential discretionary time off for these important members of our community.  Staff will be released at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21, and for the full day on Thursday, December 22.  This will be in addition to the Friday, December 23, holiday.  Staff members will receive an e-mail from Human Resources with details regarding this special leave period.  I hope that our staff and administrators will spend this extra time off with family, friends, and loved ones.  Time is precious indeed.

Enjoy the break, and come back refreshed for the opportunities and challenges that the next year will bring ’neath the elms.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College
Professor of Neuroscience