Today’s Washington Post has a terrific article by Susan Kinzie about Trinity’s new program at THE ARC in southeast Washington. Trinity is the first private university to venture “east of the river” in Washington, and we are the first and only university to offer a full degree program there.
Trinity’s students at THE ARC are real pioneers, women and men who deeply desire a higher education for its power to change their lives. They carry on the pioneering tradition begun in 1900 when the first few Trinity students ventured onto our campus, taking up residence in what was then only one wing of Main Hall (the south wing). New generations of pioneers came along to start the M.A.T. program in 1968, the adult degree completion program in 1972, the Weekend College in 1985, and the M.B.A. in 2003. Now, the students in the A.A. program at THE ARC join that long and illustrious chain of Trinity pioneers.
Another pioneer, a graduate of the Weekend College, called me this morning to discuss the issues raised by the part of the article that mentions past criticism of Trinity. I urged her to write to the Post, and she did. Here’s an excerpt from her very eloquent and passionate statement:
(from a Weekend College alumna)
“The article in the Washington Post stated: “Some alumnae complained years ago that Trinity, based in Northeast Washington, was turning itself into a half-rate night school; others were glad to see it save itself and reinforce its Catholic mission of social justice.” Why would you concentrate on a very socially irresponsible statement? The women who attended the Weekend College were pioneers. Do you understand the sacrifices that these women endured to become educated? Their plight was no different from any other group of people trying to better their circumstances and their lives. Are you suggesting that Trinity College, at that time, gave degrees to these pioneers and they had not earned them? Believe me when I say those grades came with blood, sweat, and many tears. At the end of each session proved to be just one more hurdle cleared.
“It is a disservice to all of the women and men who sacrificed their time, families, money, peace of mind to become what society considered the disenfranchised. Along the way, marriages failed; loved ones died; opportunities were lost; and equality was not equal. Attending classes at night, after a full day of work and ongoing family responsibilities was not a vacation to the Riviera. It is insulting and condescending to keep repeating the drumbeat of past racism. Our classes, during that time, were filled with educated people who realize the mounting challenges they faced. This school offered the opportunity, but it was the Black, Latino, middle class, poor, and men who EARNED THEIR GRADES AND DIPLOMAS. Why is it always necessary to focus on a very negative time in history. There is nothing we can do about the mindset of some of the older alumnae, but understand. Every time a class graduates with the disenfranchised, they are proven inaccurate in their assessment anyway.
“While attending the Weekend College in 1996, I lost my sister to breast cancer. The Trinity family helped me through the most devastating time of my life. Had it not been their nurturing, compassion, and fortitude, I would have given up. They were my psychologist, counselor, priest, and God’s saving grace. The next time you write an article about that time in history; concentrate on the determined, the proud, and the single-mindedness of all those who made it to the end. When I look back and realize what was accomplish, no person or article can minimize the importance of the pioneering times Trinity’s Weekend College afforded us. Always remember ‘WE ARE TRINITY!”
Well said. Trinity did experience times of criticism, doubt and confusion as we went through the transformative years of the 1980’s and 1990’s. But our success through that time of ‘paradigm shift’ helped to calm the fears of many alumnae, some of whom are now great advocates for Trinity today. That transformation is documented in our Middle States self-study now posted on the website.
Trinity today is a remarkable story of persistence and triumph over many challenges. We believe deeply in the mission we have received from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Because of this commitment, when the partners at THE ARC were considering a university to invite into the mix of other educational organizations working together to serve the community in southeast, Trinity was their choice. We are particularly grateful to Sr. Mary Bourdon and Ms. Jennifer Gibbs-Phillips of the Washington Middle School for Girls for making the connection between Trinity and THE ARC. Trinity is proud to be their partner, and to be associated with the other fine institutions at THE ARC: The Washington Ballet, the Levine School of Music, the Corcoran School of Art, Children’s Hospital Pediatric Clinic, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington, Covenant House, Parklands Community Association, and the William C. Smith Companies whose Building Bridges Across the River made it all possible.