Leading into our third century

President Joanne Berger-SweeneyCommitments to the future require action, belief

The celebration of our College’s Bicentennial has officially arrived! For 200 years, Trinity has provided an innovative learning environment built on a foundation of the liberal arts. We have educated generations of students to reach their individual potential and have leaned into our collective leadership strengths in service to the greater good of the country and the world. As we commemorate our storied history, we move further into a rapidly evolving 21st century filled with new challenges and opportunities. As the architects of our future, we are mindful of what is required of us to lead successfully in the 21st century and beyond, and our Bicentennial is a particularly useful time to ponder these issues and to chart our course forward together.

Our Bicentennial theme, Trinity at 200: Committed to the Future since 1823, tells the proud story of our College. Trinity has looked toward the future since its founding, and we are dedicated to creating the future that we seek. As a community of doers who lead from the front, we make commitments, and, importantly, we act to fulfill those commitments. As one example, I harken back to Trinity’s founding. In the charter of Washington College (later renamed Trinity College), the institution is described as an independent college with no requirement regarding religious belief for students, faculty, or trustees. Though the College was principally founded by Thomas Church Brownell, an Episcopal priest, the larger group of founders recognized the importance of including other religious beliefs and codified this as part of the institution’s charter. Through this and subsequent actions, Trinity differentiated itself from most other schools of higher education in the early 1800s.

Leadership starts with a plan and commitments, and these must be followed by actions to produce successful outcomes. In 2017, we started a journey together with our strategic plan, Summit. To date through our strategic vision, we have expanded access to a Trinity education; increased the engagement and preparedness of the students we accepted; improved student retention, graduation rates, and success after graduation; strengthened faculty; addressed multiple facility needs; measurably increased the endowment; and according to the most recent alumni survey, improved alumni engagement. Planning and following through with action is necessary for us to reach beyond the summit. As a community, we also have led with agility, particularly through a pandemic, rising to the challenges created by circumstances that often were beyond our control. Notably, we have fulfilled so many of the commitments that we made in our strategic plan.

This May, I was reminded of the longtime Trinity tradition of leading through planning, making commitments, and following through with agility and action. At Commencement for our 200th year (officially our 197th ceremony), we had the opportunity to honor some of our living leaders—former chairs of the Board of Trustees, trustees, presidents, and deans of the faculty. We invited these individuals back to Hartford to help us honor our past and welcome the future. The groundwork for Trinity’s successful future has been laid largely by the excellence of so many individuals and collective measures that have helped us arrive at this point in time.

Yet the Bicentennial is not a time to rest on our laurels. I hope that our Alumni Bicentennial Celebration is marked by individual and shared experiences that create ideas to usher in the next era at Trinity (as well as some fun!). Developing ideas and strategies together will help us tackle the complex issues of our time and plan responsibly for the future. I challenge the current Trinity community to consider what commitments our generation of Bantams will make to future generations. My hope is that those we make today will be heralded by our successors as ones that made a difference in the positive trajectory of this great institution.

We are the preeminent liberal arts college in an urban setting, and it’s within us to continue to lead by example through the courage of our convictions and our collective actions. We do so through our determined spirit and the pragmatic enthusiasm for what can be accomplished through the commitments we identify as a community throughout this, our Bicentennial year. Onward!