April 16, 2019

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,

At its meeting this past weekend, the Board of Trustees took action on some of its most significant votes of the year, including those to award tenure to members of our faculty, to grant degrees to students who will graduate in a few weeks, and to approve a budget for the coming fiscal year.

As we undertook such consequential business this past weekend, this meeting also was an opportune moment to pause and take stock of where we are, how much we have achieved together, and how bright Trinity’s future is. We did so—as we routinely do—in the framework of Summit, our strategic plan, and its three overarching goals of positioning Trinity increasingly as a first-choice destination for students, faculty, and staff; connecting Trinity more deeply to the Hartford region and the world beyond; and building on Trinity’s historic past to ensure a vibrant, sustainable future.

Trinity as a First-Choice Destination

Nothing is more important to the education we provide than securing a world-class faculty who will shape the curriculum, advance knowledge, and teach and mentor our students. In this board meeting, trustees voted to award tenure to five outstanding professors who have already made their marks as scholars and scientists in their fields, and also as community members and dedicated teachers at Trinity. They are making a difference in the life of the college and the lives of students. The faculty members are:

Katherine L. Bergren, a scholar in English whose interests include British Romantic poetry, 19th-century British literature, postcolonial literature and theory, the transatlantic, and ecocriticism.

Elizabeth D. Casserly, who studies and teaches about the psychology of speech perception and production. Her research concerns in particular the mechanisms of real-time speech motor control and how they interact with atypical sensory experience such as hearing loss.

Tamsin Jones, whose extensive scholarship in religious studies includes A Genealogy of Marion’s Philosophy of Religion: Apparent Darkness.

Isaac A. Kamola, a political scientist whose teaching and research examines the intersection of international political economy, African politics, and the politics of higher education.

Michelle Kovarik, a bioanalytical chemist with special interests in microfluidics and chemistry education.

In addition to those important decisions, the board also celebrated faculty more broadly. I’ve recently established a practice of highlighting a faculty member in the board meeting. In February, that was Craig Schneider, Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology. This time, I highlighted Stefanie Chambers, professor and chair of political science, and the board was delighted to have time to hear from and engage with her.

Board renewal and shared governance are important parts of our strategic goals. We honored and thanked retiring trustees who generously gave their time, talent, and treasure to the college: Thomas Chappell ’66, H’06, P’89, ’92,’97,’06; Vice Chair Philip S. Khoury ’71; L. Peter Lawrence ’71, P’04; and Justin S. Maccarone Jr. ’81, P’19, who completes his service on the board as his term as president of the National Alumni Association (NAA) ends this summer. Philip Khoury’s 19 years of service on the board was commemorated with a plaque in Mather Hall.

As the cycle goes, we welcome new trustees Eric Estes ’91, the incoming NAA president; John S. Gates Jr. ’76, P’13; Jeffrey B. Hawkins ’92; and Kelli J. Tomlinson ’94 to the board starting July 1, 2019. We’ll introduce the new board members and their backgrounds more fully in a website story this summer. The board will continue to be chaired by the awesome Cornie Thornburgh ’80 with new vice chairs Michael J. Kluger ’78, P’13 and Kevin J. Maloney ’79.

Hartford and the World

We discussed progress on the design of our innovation space at One Constitution Plaza, which will house the Infosys partnership and other entrepreneurial activities. We are grateful to the State of Connecticut for a $2.5 million grant to renovate the space, which is scheduled to open in late fall 2019.

Toward a Sustainable Future

Another truly significant milestone we shared with the board this weekend was that the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Trinity’s accreditation agency, accepted our progress report and agreed with our assessment of headway on operating budgets, enrollments goals, plans for deferred maintenance, and credit/hour equivalents. This is a terrific endorsement of our work and an acknowledgement of our forward momentum. In issuing its decision, NECHE wrote, “We commend Trinity College for its exemplary progress report and concur with the institution that it has made ‘substantial and concrete’ progress in each of the areas identified for review by the Commission.”

I’m pleased to report that that we presented—and the board approved—a balanced budget for FY20. The total budget for the coming year grows slightly, to $140 million, reflecting our continued commitment to financial aid and to ensuring competitive salaries for faculty and staff. The budget also includes increases in benefits and contract expenses. Those operating expenses will be offset by growth in revenues from programs such as J-Start and Global Start, as well as our partnership with Infosys.

Of course, in the context of our overall financial planning, the revenue we collect in tuition, room and board, and student fees looms large. What families pay, what we draw each year from the endowment, and what we receive as gifts for current use are the three main sources of funding for what it costs to deliver a Trinity education. After projecting next year’s income from the endowment and gifts, we’ve determined that providing an outstanding Trinity education will require a 3.75 percent increase in our comprehensive fee.

Here is the breakdown of the comprehensive fee for 2019–20:

Tuition & General Fee: $58,620
Room: 9,960
Board: 5,340
Student Activities Fee: 430
Total:  $74,350

We recognize that fewer and fewer families can afford to pay the full comprehensive fee, and so we will continue to attend carefully to cost, as we have done for the past five years. At the same time, we are profoundly grateful for the generations of philanthropy that have allowed Trinity to remain one of the few institutions in the country that meet the full demonstrated financial need of admitted students.

We reported at the board meeting data from our annual first-destination survey about where our graduates go after Trinity. For the second year in a row, within six months of Commencement, more than 95 percent of new graduates were employed full or part time, enrolled in or admitted to graduate programs, or engaged in full-time service (in the military or a service program such as the Peace Corps or Teach For America).

In addition to approving the operating budget for FY20 (see more details about the operating budget), the trustees also approved a capital budget of nearly $9.6 million for the coming year. The replacement of the main steam line, which delivers steam heat from the central plant to buildings across campus, and the renovation of One Constitution Plaza are the two biggest projects for FY20. Other planned projects will address a range of needs related to safety, health, accessibility, student housing, and classroom technology (see more about the FY20 capital budget). We also will begin planning renovations to tackle some of our deferred maintenance in athletics, student housing, and academic facilities; we discussed options for funding these projects.

At this, the last board meeting of the academic year, trustees also heard annual reports from the faculty secretary, Student Government Association (SGA) leadership, and the president of the NAA. These were important reminders of how much we have accomplished and how much more we have to do.

I am grateful for the incredible dedication of the members of the Board of Trustees and their support of this great institution. And I continue to be impressed by how the entire Trinity community has come together to support our progress toward the Summit. It has been another strong year, indeed.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience