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Trinity Magazine 2007 | Leader of the Years Award

Leader of the Years

A Tribute to President McGuire by Donald Graham

President McGuire at the podium

More than 400 business and community leaders gathered to salute President Patricia McGuire as the Greater Washington Board of Trade’s 2007 Leader of the Years for her outstanding contributions to the business and community interests of greater Washington. More than 80 Trinity alumnae, students, Trustees, Sisters of Notre Dame, faculty and staff were present for this special black-tie event on May 15.

Donald Graham, chairman of the board of The Washington Post Company, gave the testimonial tribute in President McGuire’s honor. He eloquently captured Trinity’s commitment to educating underserved populations of students while continuing its commitment to excellence and quality. His remarks are below.

Tonight we celebrate a leader … a leader of the most remarkable kind.

Many university presidents serve their term and leave without making much of an impact on their school. Then there are a few who truly change their school.

But how often can you say of a president: ‘Without her, that college probably wouldn’t be there at all’?

That’s the story of Pat McGuire and Trinity.

She not only saved her school, she did it in a way to make a lasting difference to hundreds of families in Washington.

Donald Graham with President Patricia McGuire '74

Donald Graham with President Patricia McGuire ’74

A daughter of Philadelphia, one of 7 kids, Pat won a full scholarship to Trinity, Class of 1974. She played on the basketball team and found Trinity in her words ‘A brilliant place, its faculty and students adding up to a lot of outstanding women.’ Pat was a typical Trinity student: Catholic, Eastern, middle-class, like 90% of Trinity students.

Sister Margaret Claydon was then the president, and I am pleased that Sister Margaret is here with us tonight. Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Kennelly and Cathie Black were all graduates in that era.

But the winds of change were blowing. In the mid 1960s, there were 190 Catholic women’s colleges ’20 remain today.
In the 1960s Trinity had 1,000 students. And as many formerly all-male colleges went co-ed, there were 500 students there when Pat graduated and 300 in 1989, when she became Trinity’s President.

Pat had gone to Georgetown Law, run the Law school’s Street Law Program, and was ready for a challenge’and Trinity offered one: She was the 6th president in 8 years. Pat was smart enough to see that while Trinity’s old source of students was drying up, there was a huge new one at their doorstep: the women graduating from Washington, DC’s public schools.

Trinity reached out to this new source of students and they responded. Today, DCPS graduates make up about half of a totally different population than the Trinity students of 20 years ago.

But in other ways, it’s not so different. It was a wrenching change from Trinity’s old students to its new ones, but Pat made it happen. With the formidable help of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Trinity’s founders, who said the school’s new mission was nothing but a continuation of the old one.

What is truly remarkable about Trinity is the education today’s Trinity students receive. 45% are from the DCPS; 85% are black and Latino, but academic achievement and graduation rates are high. Employers beat a path to Trinity’s campus every spring knowing what outstanding young women they will find there.

Today as before, lots of those graduates become teachers. And I say: ‘Lucky us, that those who have received the fine teaching of Trinity’s faculty want to become teachers themselves.’

Many Trinity sisters attended the awards ceremony.

Many Trinity sisters attended the awards ceremony.

It takes a whole university; administrators, faculty and students to create a success like Trinity’s. And Pat would be the first to say the credit should be shared.

But this is an award for leadership. And there is one person responsible both for Trinity’s survival, and for its providential role in giving so many bright young women from this city the chance for a top-flight education.

For an educational visionary, a leader who saved her school, the teacher who served so many of this city’s poorest families: let us stand up and cheer for our Leader of the Years, President Pat McGuire.

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