April 28, 2023
Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,
The April meeting of the Trinity College Board of Trustees has come and gone; it was held on our beautiful Hartford campus on April 21 and 22, 2023. The April meeting is always jam-packed—another academic year is nearing its end, with milestones, important updates, budgets, and special moments of gratitude—lending itself to a longer-than-usual post-board update. And, of course, the anticipation of our Bicentennial celebration, officially set to kick off on May 5, 2023, added a bit of excitement to an already energized board meeting.
The meeting was an opportune moment to pause and take stock of where we are as a community and the incredible work we’ve accomplished through our strategic plan, Summit. We’ve stayed true to our plan; our progress is undeniable and the result of so many people’s hard work. The meeting also presented multiple opportunities for trustees to interact with students and faculty in both informal and formal settings, which always offer rich reminders of our core mission to educate bold, independent thinkers.
As Trinity enters its third century of excellence, we look forward to the upcoming year, which will be filled with festivities and moments of pride. We know we are distinctly positioned to continue our momentum forward to advance our ideals as an institution of higher education. For now, though, I share more highlights from the board’s final gathering of century number two.
TRINITY AS A FIRST-CHOICE DESTINATION
Faculty and Student Success
Trustees voted to award tenure and promotion to four excellent faculty members to the rank of associate professor. Please join me in congratulating David Sterling Brown, English; Jordan Camp, American studies; Kevin Huang, engineering; and Vincent E. Tomasso, classical studies, for this wonderful—and well-earned—milestone in their careers. Trustees also granted emeritus status to Paul Assaiante and Edward Fitzgerald for their lasting contributions to the College.
The board took time to celebrate several recent, prestigious faculty and student achievements. High-achieving faculty and high-achieving students go hand in hand. We highlighted significant faculty achievements and our student achievements, which included five Fulbright finalists and the first Beinecke Scholarship awarded to a Trinity student since 2007. At a lovely reception on Friday evening, we honored our retiring faculty from the last three years.
The first-destination survey reports the disposition of our students six months after graduation (i.e., whether they were employed, accepted to graduate school, participating in a service/volunteer program, or serving in the military). Student postgraduation success is high, with 96 percent of the Class of 2022 in one of the aforementioned categories!
I shared with the board an update on a recent March visit to our Trinity College Rome Campus to celebrate its 50th (+3) anniversary; the gathering was delayed three years due to the pandemic. Faculty, alumni, and current and former trustees mingled with current students during this momentous occasion. The event was a vivid reminder of the important ways that global studies broaden students’ horizons and of how our Rome campus, eloquently situated in one of the world’s great cities, is a crown jewel.
Reports from Leadership Groups
As is customary for the April board meeting, trustees heard the annual reports from the faculty secretary and leadership of the Trinity College Alumni Association (TCAA) and the Student Government Association (SGA). These thoughtful reports were given, respectively, by Susan Masino, Jamie Tracey Szal ’06, and Jason Farrell Jr. ’23, all of whom have devoted significant time to their leadership roles during the past year. They shared important updates and reminders on the work we have done and the work that remains in front of us. Frequent communication among our constituent groups undergirds our shared governance model.
I know many of you are interested in learning about our incoming flock of Bantams for the Class of 2027. It’s too early to know full details about the group, but I can share preliminarily that we’ve recruited another exceptional class—academically talented, diverse in every way, and full of high-achieving students who are eager to be part of the Trinity community. In total, 148 countries of citizenship and all 50 states were represented in our applicant pool. We’ll have a better picture soon!
Speaking of enrollment, in May 2021, we made a commitment to increase access to talented students who are eligible for Pell grants. Most institutions reduced their commitments to financial aid during the pandemic; Trinity did not. I am delighted to share that we met our goal of enrolling more than 15 percent Pell-eligible, low-income, high-achieving students this year!
TOWARD A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Building and achieving long-term financial sustainability in higher education, especially in the aftermath of a global pandemic, is a challenging and difficult path. We made important steps toward this goal during the April meeting. Trustees approved a balanced FY24 budget of $144 million, which is the first budget to surpass our pre-COVID FY20 budget. This doesn’t mean that we can return to pre-COVID operations, but it does signal careful financial planning and restraint. In support of our budgets, our investment returns for FY22 were +6.8 percent thanks to the careful attention of the trustee Investment Committee and Commonfund, our external chief investment officer. Among the planned capital projects (approved as part of the FY24 capital budget of $20.1 million) are supporting the Ferris fitness and wellness center improvements, addressing Title IX inequities on the Sheppard and softball fields, and continuing to advance the heating and cooling master plan, the Chapel renovation, and other deferred maintenance projects. We will continue to explore specific options for enhancing our science facilities. The operating budget also includes tuition, room, and board increases, as well as increases in the employee raise pool and retirement contributions. For those on campus, we will have a forum in early May to share more information on the approved budgets.
Trustees also received a critical update on our food-service program. After significant campus input, we are extending our partnership with Chartwells. The new agreement includes an all-access meal plan for Mather Hall, extended operating hours, and the renovation of dining facilities in Mather Hall. The new meal plan and renovations will be in place next fall, and we will share more information with the College community about the program in the coming weeks.
We are nearly two-thirds (63 percent, $318 million) and counting on the way to our $500 million goal and have raised more than $40 million in new commitments to date this year. Additionally, this spring’s Trinity Athletics Giving Week, or TAG Week, exceeded our goals in dollars raised ($1.2 million) and donors (2,200). And our Annual Giving Week met our goals in dollars raised ($1.8 million) and donors (1,839). The support of our community is truly something to behold, and my appreciation extends to all who have given. We anticipate a public launch of the campaign in November 2023, and then we are ALL IN!
It was a proud moment to present to the board Trinity’s Action Plan for Racial Justice and to highlight many of the steps we’ve already taken as a community so all students, faculty, and staff can feel they belong and contribute to the mission of the College. The plan is the culmination of the work of the Task Force on Campus Climate and of supporting the goals of our strategic plan; much progress has been made, and there remains much to do.
In November 2022, I wrote to you with an update on the work of the Committee on Named Facilities and Commemoratives and the proposed policy for considering petitions to change names or commemoratives on Trinity’s campus. After inviting and reviewing feedback, we were able to make modifications to better the policy, which the board voted to approve at the April meeting. I’ve provided the final policy for you here. I’d also like to share (anonymously) substantive comments that we received during community input. Those are available here (Trinity log-in required).
FACULTY WORKLOAD AND ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE
Led by Sonia Cardenas, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, the Saturday plenary session focused on the results of the Taskforce on Equity and Faculty Workloads and allowed trustees to learn more about the experiences and perspectives directly from faculty. Our faculty are model teacher-scholars and central to the mentor-focused education that distinguishes Trinity from many of our peers. Although the nature of faculty work and student needs have changed over the last decade, our academic structures to support faculty may not have kept pace. The theme of the discussion was how we can do more to support faculty success. It was a great reminder that we cannot take for granted the critical role that faculty play in delivering the experiences that are at the core of Trinity’s mission.
GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION
The April meeting also is when we say goodbye to our outgoing trustees. In a dinner celebration, we said farewell to James Cuminale ’75, P’09, Nancy Davis ’79, Ling Kwok ’94, Kathleen MacLennan P’17, P’20, Kevin Maloney ’79, Rhea Turteltaub ’82, and Jean Walshe ’83. These seven trustees have been unwavering in their commitment to our community and have been generous with their time and talent.
Borges Admissions Center Dedication
Upon conclusion of the board’s formal proceedings, many trustees remained on campus to join in a special event: the dedication of the Manuel and Maria Luisa Lopes Borges Admissions Center, which was made possible through the generosity of their children. The event expressed appreciation to Frank Borges ’74, H’20 and his family for their generous gift to expand, as never before, Trinity’s ability to give all deserving students the opportunity to experience the transformative power of a Trinity education.
Please keep an eye out for all of our Bicentennial announcements. I can’t wait to see you over the next two months at the Bicentennial Kickoff on May 5, Charter Day on May 16, and the Alumni Bicentennial Celebration on June 9–11! The story of Trinity is one of a forward-acting community, and our next chapter will include YOU!
In closing, I’ve saved perhaps the most important update for last. The board voted to grant degrees to our students who will complete graduation requirements in the next few weeks. Commencement is the central and most important event of the academic year—as well as my favorite—and to the families, friends, faculty, and staff preparing to celebrate the extraordinary Class of 2023, I’m excited to join you.
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience