Saturday morning brought a wave of excitement and emotion as Trinity celebrated commencement exercises for its 150th year. It was incredible to watch 150 years of history—of Trinity's mission fueled by innovation, entrepreneurship, and discovery—culminate in these confident, curious minds. As 40 graduate students and 450 undergraduates walked across the stage, they also walked into the next chapter of their lives—lives they will undoubtedly lead with meaning and purpose.
One of my favorite parts about commencement is after the pomp and circumstance. As families and friends gather on the lawn—this year, despite the gray clouds and chance of rain—to greet their graduates, I cannot help but smile as I watch those graduates all do the same thing: introduce their families to the faculty who changed their lives. I walk past tears and laughter and hugs, and I overhear snippets of conversation—"Mom, this is the professor I told you about, who helped me get that internship," or, "Dad, this is the professor who stayed in office hours until midnight to help me study for my final."
For 150 years, faculty have been the hallmark of a Trinity education. Decades of alumni have shared stories and memories about faculty who marked pivotal moments on their paths of life. And while these moments span the school year, the month of May is an especially inspirational reminder of our faculty's contributions.
Earlier this month, Trinity honored seven faculty members with University awards for student advocacy and distinguished achievement: Wilson Terrell Jr., engineering science professor, and James Bynum, operations manager for the Department of Communication, received awards for excellence in student advocacy. Political science professor Rosa Aloisiand history professor Jason Johnson received early career faculty awards for distinguished teaching and research. Education professor Rocio Delgado was honored as this year’s distinguished adviser. Spanish professor Rita Urquijo-Ruiz received a much-deserved award for distinguished university, community, and professional service. Chemistry professor Adam Urbach received the University’s award for distinguished scholarship, research, or creative work or activity. And, during the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, Jennifer P. Mathews, professor of sociology and anthropology received the Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellowship in recognition of her outstanding abilities as a teacher and mentor.
I congratulate our faculty—and I congratulate students, staff, and alumni—for continuing to live out Trinity's mission. While commencement marks a new step on many Tigers' paths, we can use this milestone to also take a new step as an institution.
Throughout the last year, I have spent time with some of my closest colleagues in conversation about Trinity's mission and values statements: Do they speak to what Trinity is today? Do they honor our history? Do they carry us forward? I have often said that to know something truly and deeply, you must be able to talk about it "in a breath." These conversations resulted in new ways to talk about our mission and values, to make them as natural to our daily conversations as breathing.
Trinity's mission as a transformational liberal arts and sciences institution states that the University is committed to the highest levels of academic and professional excellence, and that it embraces innovation in all pursuits while preparing students for lives of meaning and purpose. But in a breath? Trinity University empowers purpose for life.
We live our mission by adhering to a set of values: discovery, excellence, impact, the individual, and community. Each of these values is accompanied by specific ways the institution honors its community through learning, leading, service, and connection to others. But in a breath? Trinity University values enduring excellence, perpetual discovery, and intentional inclusion.
Over the summer, I will be digging deeper into each of these three values statements—and, in the spirit of innovation, I’ll be using a new format: video. Through recorded conversations with faculty, students, staff, and alumni, I’ll be exploring what each of these statements mean to our campus community and to the individuals who embody them. I am excited to share our conversations with you in this video series, and I hope they will inspire you to share your own stories in return.
As Trinity's chief storyteller, I love to share news about the University. But I also love hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me at TUPresident [at] trinity.edu. Also, follow me on Twitter @TU_President19 or follow conversations on my website at president.trinity.edu.