October 26, 2018

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,

The excitement was palpable at last weekend’s Board of Trustees meeting. The board’s discussions and actions, its conversations with students and faculty, and the celebrations of the dedication of the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience (CCAN) and our newest Wall of Honor inductees left us all feeling energized by such significant positive momentum toward our goals for the future of the college.

That momentum included welcoming and orienting our new trustees, and it continued with the terrific news we shared with the board—and now with the entire Trinity community—that our first-year retention rate (the percentage of first-year students who return for their sophomore year) this year rose to 91 percent, up from 88.5 percent last year. That’s the highest retention rate the college has seen in several years, and it’s the result of the collaborative and strategic work of our entire community. The new student success ecosystem launched over the last year, including the new Center for Academic Advising, is supporting and engaging with students even before they arrive on campus and employing data-informed strategies to help all students thrive during their four years here and beyond. I want to take a moment to express my pride in and deep gratitude to all those involved in this comprehensive effort.

The retention rate, combined with a low summer melt for the Class of 2022, strengthens our financial position as we head into budget planning for fiscal year 2020. And the challenging work we did last spring to align our resources with the strategic priorities articulated in Summit—which included difficult decisions to eliminate positions in some areas and add positions in others—helped lay the foundation for the college’s long-term financial sustainability. The community’s work to attend carefully to spending helped us end FY18 with a small surplus. For those interested in a detailed reporting on FY18 finances, I invite you to read the financial audit the trustees approved at their meeting.

After a tour of campus facilities, several trustees noted that there remains much to do on the deferred maintenance front. Though we have some new beautiful and technologically sophisticated classrooms, there are other spaces that are uncharacteristic of our commitment to excellence. The trustees renewed their commitment to improving our campus infrastructure.

In what has become a favorite aspect of every trustees meeting, the board heard from a number of first-year students, who spoke candidly about their decisions to come to Trinity and their experiences so far. And trustees met over lunch with faculty members, continuing the productive discussions from the recent faculty retreat about Trinity’s curriculum. This work is critical in creating a relevant 21st-century curriculum, which is among the primary goals laid out in our strategic plan. I’m delighted by the openness of the conversations and by the progress being made.

Another critical step toward achieving our goals for the bicentennial and beyond is to undertake a comprehensive fundraising campaign. In February, I shared with the community that the board had authorized us to begin planning for that campaign. At its meeting last weekend, the board voted unanimously to name two of its members—Jeffrey E. Kelter ’76, P’18, and Kathryn George Tyree ’86—as chairs of the upcoming campaign. My enormous appreciation to Jeff and Kathryn, who have long demonstrated their enduring love of and dedication to Trinity. They will work with the entire board, the Advancement team and me, and many others in the coming months to fully develop a campaign plan. We’ll keep you apprised as our plans progress.

In a Saturday morning plenary session titled “Partnering for Innovation,” Dean of Academic Affairs and Strategic Initiatives and Professor of Political Science Sonia Cardenas led a conversation among Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys; Jeffrey Flaks, president and COO of Hartford HealthCare; and me. It was an exciting discussion highlighting both existing and new partnerships connecting the liberal arts and digital technology, all of us united in our commitment to strengthen Hartford and to cultivate an innovation ecosystem in the region. I shared with the trustees that in recognition of the need to devote sustained support for these growing partnerships, I am elevating Sonia Cardenas’s role to vice president for strategic initiatives and innovation. Sonia also will continue to serve as dean of academic affairs, overseeing graduate studies and intersession programs. The board was enthusiastically supportive of this critical evolution in Sonia’s role.

Finally, we celebrated two special occasions: the long-awaited dedication of CCAN and the induction of our newest Wall of Honor members, the highest mark of gratitude bestowed upon Trinity donors. The CCAN dedication was a wonderful tribute to the donors—Victory and Alex Levi ’67, John Robson ’70, and the Roberts Foundation—who helped make possible this modern embodiment of our tradition of interdisciplinary learning. And this year we celebrated 2017 and 2018 Wall of Honor inductees—who join an astounding list of people, businesses, and organizations whose philanthropy has built, sustained, and transformed the college since its founding in 1823. Please join me in expressing deep thanks to:

2017 Inductees

  • Francisco L. Borges ’74
  • Cynthia A. and James W. Cuminale ’75, P’09
  • Heather and James J. Murren ’83
  • Margaret Ann Johnson and Scott W. Reynolds ’63

2018 Inductees

  • Sandra and William E. Cunningham Jr. ’87, P’19, ’21
  • Christine M. and Peter S. Duncan ’81, P’13, ’14
  • Audrey and Daniel H. Meyer ’80, P’20
  • Neil H. Pfanstiel ’38 (inducted posthumously)

I know this is a long letter, but I wanted to give you a sense of the breadth of engagement of our trustees last weekend, and I am proud to have so many significant milestones to share.



Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience