Alumnae leadership is a Trinity hallmark across all generations of Trinity Women. At this week’s Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society induction for Political Science majors, Paula Lettice, Class of 1971, continued the grand tradition of extending our “Old Girls’ Network” to the latest generation of Trinity leaders. While we all know the famous Trinity alumna who sits in the Speaker’s chair on Capitol Hill these days (Nancy Pelosi, Class of 1962), Paula Lettice is also a great example of the many Trinity leaders who work on the Hill to ensure that the “People’s House” is run effectively. As the chief financial officer for the Architect of the Capitol, Paula has considerable responsibility for the operations of all major buildings under Congressional control, as well as the construction of the new visitors’ center. In addition to her duties at the Capitol, Paula has also exercised her Trinity leadership skills on behalf of her alma mater, serving now as a Trinity Trustee.
In her remarks to the new inductees for Pi Sigma Alpha, Paula’s message was clear: Trinity Women must be politically engaged, not only registering and voting, but volunteering on behalf of the great causes in our communities. This is our heritage and tradition. She said, “You can’t complain about public programs, taxes, local budgets, county or state services … if you aren’t a force behind them. Voting is the simplest and least painful way to stay involved. You can also write letters, attend meetings, serve in civic associations, participate in partisan politics, or volunteer. Try to influence the public policy debate.“
Perhaps the most important part of Paula’s message, in addition to voting and political engagement, is the challenge to live ethically every day. She recounted her own experiences in public life and observed:
“Each of you will some day be in a situation where your own personal and professional ethics are tested. Some of you may have many of these “growth experiences.” I am practicing my degree – throughout over 30 years of federal government work and six years in the association world, I have tried to not only practice ethics but to set a high standard for others … and to dearly protect the public trust. There were instances where I couldn’t make the decision that “was expected” of me, but I tried to take the high ground, and advocate the right course of action. Hopefully I’ve done the right things along the way, made the right choices, been loyal to the oath I’ve taken … and been an ethical public employee and association executive.”
Paula also paid tribute to one of the great Trinity faculty members of all time: Dr. Elizabeth Duke, who was chair of Political Science in the early 1970’s before she left Trinity for full-time public service in the federal government. Dr. Duke has returned to Trinity every year as an adjunct professor, and she is famous for her courses on Political Theory, Revolution, and Conflict. She was my great teacher as well, so I was pleased that Paula paid tribute to her.
Dr. Shelley Tomkin organized the program for Pi Sigma Alpha in her usual stylish manner, complete with gracious remarks, elegant presentation of the certificates, and lovely reception afterward. We are grateful to Dr. Tomkin, and also to Dr. Kathleen McGinnis who is also one of the great Trinity teachers and mentors for generations of influential Trinity women in politics and public life.
At the close of the program, I challenged all of the members of Pi Sigma Alpha — I am proud to be a member, myself — to take a lead in the next academic year in calling the entire Trinity community to robust engagement with this presidential election. The Political Science community here at Trinity — students, faculty, alumnae, friends — surely has produced some of the great leaders of our communities, nation and world. Today’s Trinity campus community should be leading the way for college communities locally and nationally in analyzing, debating and engaging the issues in the presidential election.
Congratulations to our students, thanks to Paula Lettice, and many thanks as well to Dr. Tomkin, Dr. McGinnis, and Dr. Duke!