Remarks Accepting the Board of Trade 2007 “Leader of the Years” Award
May 15, 2007
Photos and additional remarks from this event
Wow! The Board of Trade “Leader of the Years” award is just a stunning recognition. I am so grateful to everyone who made this award possible, and who worked to ensure that this night would be so special. Thank you! While I realize and gratefully, humbly accept what this award means for my work, I also must insist that I accept this truly for the entire Trinity community.
A great learning institution is a collective good work, a work of the mind, heart and soul of thousands of people. All of you in this room are, in many different ways, part of that vast Trinity community, the people who make this remarkable center of learning work each day. A college presidency is one of the best jobs in the world; don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. We get to represent everyone else’s hard work and accomplishments. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest presidents in the world to be able to represent the remarkable Trinity community.
Each of you has made a big contribution to the success of Trinity we celebrate tonight. It’s not just my success, it’s OUR success!
Let me illuminate the ways in which you have been part of this great success, and I will necessarily identify some of you, though I can’t possibly name everyone individually, though you know of my great gratitude.
Donald Graham: you honor me and Trinity with your generous remarks this night, and your very presence here. I am also so moved to think that your dear mother Katharine Graham once received this same award! She was one of my icons. But so are you. On more than one occasion, in ways you know and some you don’t know, you helped Trinity and me at critical moments, particularly through supporting our students. In the 1990’s we had ventured far out into some very difficult terrain, daring to take on a larger role in the education of students from the District of Columbia. The going was not always easy, and we had many doubts, and not a few critics at times. But then along came your clear, strong voice to the business community, to Congress and our local politicians, establishing the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program, and the D.C. College Access Program. Then you reached out to the Gates Foundation to help create the amazing D.C. Achievers Scholarships and you have inspired many other grant and scholarship providers. By putting your considerable stake in the ground in favor of raising the sights of D.C. students toward higher education, by providing and leveraging scholarship support for so many, you affirmed Trinity and our commitment to expand educational opportunities for District residents. And, you did the most important thing that anyone can do, you made education possible for students who might not have thought about going to college. Thank you!
Julie Rogers: thank you for your amazing and kind words of introduction. You and the Meyer Foundation reminded me continuously of the importance of Trinity’s commitment to social justice. You supported Trinity and affirmed our work in so many ways, and you gave me the privilege of serving on your board along the way, a great joy that kept me grounded in some of the most important justice work imaginable in this town.
Barbara Krumsiek: you wear many hats in this room tonight, and I salute each — as chair of the Board of Trade, you are a fantastic leader and great role model for all of us. I thank you and the Board of Trade for this great honor. The Board of Trade gave me the opportunity to learn how to be a business leader, and gave Trinity the opportunity to emerge as a modern educational corporation serving the workforce needs of the region. Barbara, I also must thank you as chair of the Calvert Group, and through you to my colleagues with the Acacia Life Insurance Company and the UNIFI mutual holding company — my board service with those companies has also been an invaluable part of my continuing executive education. Thanks, Barbara!
Sam Schreiber: my banker! Immediate past chair of the Board of Trade, you gave me such a great opportunity to work with you in the search that brought us Jim Dinegar (thanks Jim, as well!) And for Trinity, Wachovia’s partnership is essential. We could not have built the Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports without Wachovia’s willingness to underwrite the bond issue, and it’s been a great success story. Thanks, Sam!
Speaking of the Board of Trade — special thanks to Roxana Ruckowicz and the staff for all of your hard work on tonight’s dinner.
Let me tell you a brief history of my introduction to the Board of Trade. 18 years ago, Trinity Alumna Cathie Black, Class of 1966, then publisher of USA Today, now president of Hearst magazines brought a gentleman to see me in my first year as Trinity’s president. His name was John Tydings, the legendary past president of the Board of Trade. The rest is history! I remember sitting on the couch in our Board Parlor talking with this very astute gentleman who seemed to know everyone in town. He reached out to involve me in Board of Trade, and in return, he eventually agreed to serve as a Trinity Trustee. Then John Tydings brought along then-Board of Trade Chair John Schwieters to Trinity’s Board (and special greetings to Martha Schwieters Class of 1963 who is also with us tonight!). Thank you, John, John and Martha!
Other prominent Board of Trade members also were Trustees and important partners with Trinity — Susan Williams, Catherine Meloy (on whose Goodwill Board I am privileged to serve) and Louise Lynch, business partner of the late Jane Marilley, Trinity Class of 1944, one of the first women on the Board of Trade. So many other members of the Senior Council and Board of Directors have helped me over the years, including almost all of the past honorees here tonight — you are too numerous to mention, but please know of my gratitude to all of you!
One of the most important lessons I learned early on in this business is the need to find some great partners and make them our friends for life. Tonight this room is full of Trinity’s great partners. Among them, there’s one particular organization that brings much gladness to my life repeatedly, even though this friendship sometimes means sleeping with lizards and wading through seaweed and singing ridiculous songs solo — I refer, of course, to Jan Verhage and the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital who are here in force tonight. The Girl Scouts surely understand the whole point of a mission devoted to women’s education. Trinity and the Girl Scouts — this partnership is as natural as — chocolate and marshmallow on graham crackers! With 77,000 scouts in this region, the Girl Scouts are a force of human nature! I should also mention that more than 100,000 Girl Scouts from all over the nation will be assembled on the Mall on June 9 for the 95th Anniversary Sing-Along! Happy Birthday, Jan and Girl Scouts!!
Many other partners in the building of the modern Trinity are here this evening —- special thanks to David Warren and friends from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities who represent us so well on the Hill, advocating on behalf of financial aid for our students. Thanks to John Childers and the Consortium of Universities and President Bill Pollard from UDC and President Charlene Drew Jarvis from Southeastern, Trinity Trustee and Georgetown Dean Jane Dammen McAuliffe ’66 and others from the higher education community. So many thanks as well to our former Trinity colleague Dr. Patty Weitzel-O’Neill now superintendent of Schools with the Archdiocese of Washington. Thanks also to our friends with Aramark, Sodexho, Chevy Chase Bank, and Verizon. Special thanks and recognition to Chris Smith of the William C. Smith Companies and Skip McMahon and all of our friends at THE ARC — you made it possible for Trinity to realize our dream of opening a program to serve the communities east of the river.
I also want to recognize and thank another great business leader, Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, who will be Trinity’s Commencement speaker and honoree on graduation day this Sunday. Congratulations, Barbara!
Many thanks and recognition to Bonnie McElveen Hunter, chair of the national board of the American Red Cross. Bonnie and the Red Cross achieved a great victory last week when President Bush signed legislation making it possible to implement the Red Cross governance changes recommended by the governance advisory panel on which I was privileged to serve.
This night is really thanks to the women who were there at the beginning. 110 years ago this August, a few Sisters of Notre Dame looked up the street to the then-new Catholic University and saw that women were denied admission to that institution, and had no where else to go. The SNDs decided that women had every right to have a place to go to college in the nation’s capital, an education just as good as (if not more so) the education that men could receive at that time, and so they founded Trinity. I am so glad to recognize and thank the SNDs who are still our spiritual godmothers, and they are with us tonight. Special thanks to President Emerita Sister Margaret Claydon, SND, Trinity Class of 1945!
Over the past century the achievements of Trinity graduates have made this college well known for women who are leaders in just about every field. The Board of Directors of the Alumnae Association of Trinity is here tonight, and many thanks to all of you, particularly Alumnae Association President Eileen Maxwell.
Our alumnae remind me every day that an award like this lovely award tonight cannot go to my head — achievement is what is normal and expected of each of us who are Trinity graduates. Last week, another Trinity alumna, Barbara York, Class of 1972, was named Cable Television Executive of the Year. Of course, by now you know that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is Trinity Class of 1962, and her mentor Barbara Bailey Kennelly, Class of 1958, is the retired Congresswoman from Connecticut, and Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius, Class of 1970, is Governor of Kansas. The list of Trinity alumnae achievers is gets longer each day — last year we celebrated when Michelle Mitchell of the Class of 2006 received a very prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship that she is using to attend Georgetown Law School; and now Leah Martin of the Class of 2007 joins this achievers list with the extraordinary Rangel Fellowship that she will use to study diplomacy and enter the foreign service with the State Department.
Trinity alumnae also lead our Board of Trustees. Our Trustees are out in force tonight, so permit me to recognize and thank them for their tremendous support, particularly Board Chair Peggy Oï¿½Brien, Class of 1969, who has been so engaged in so many ways with the D.C. community over the years, through her early work at Eastern High and then the Folger Shakespeare Library, and who now is the senior vice president at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Thanks, Peggy and Trustees!
Looking at the Board tables makes me realize that I also must publicly thank the person who fulfills a role that every college president finds indispensable — the person who keeps me on the right side of the law, our legal counsel, Jack Leary of O’Donoghue & O’Donoghue!
I thank as well the faculty who have worked so hard to make our mission a reality each day in the lives of our students. And very special thanks to all of my staff colleagues who are here tonight. Special thanks to Ann Pauley who coordinated the myriad details of Trinity’s participation in this evening’s event (including all those tables!) with the Board of Trade staff.
I saved the best for last. I want to close with special recognition of the people I really work for, the people who get me up in the morning with new enthusiasm, the people who occasionally keep me awake at night, who greet me with challenges and achievements and great meaning each day. These are the students of Trinity, who give us so much hope in our future, who reward our faith in this institution’s mission each day.
Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a college president (and you might even have to take back this marvelous award for business leadership!) if I did not close with a brief mention of our future plans — and yes, there’s a role for all of you!
With my thanks for comes an appreciation for the even higher expectations that you now have for Trinity in the future. Higher expectations come with larger challenges. The work we do at Trinity takes place in facilities built for a different era — a time before technology, before air conditioning, before modern plumbing — heck, part of our venerable Main Hall was built before electricity. Our campus is old, save for the Trinity Center, which was the first project in our strategic plan to renovate and upgrade all of our campus facilities. In the year ahead, we will announce a new campaign to build the University Academic Center that is essential for Trinity’s continuing academic excellence. This will be Trinity’s most ambitious project yet. We will build this new facility in the same way we built the Trinity Center, as a community learning center welcoming our neighbors and citizens from throughout Washington.
Ten years ago, when we proposed the $20 million Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports, some people said, it could not be done, “She’ll never be able to do that.”
We did it. It is a booming success. And we will do it again.
Come with me — walk with me into Trinity’s future. Together, we will build the Trinity Academic Center.
Just as you have been such a vital part of helping Trinity to remake the face of our campus community in the last two decades, you will also be a vital part of helping Trinity to remake the academic architecture of our campus in the years to come. These wonderful students you see here tonight, and the thousands they represent and those who will come after them, deserve no less than the best learning and living environments possible. Come with me, come with the Trinity community. With your support, we will ensure that the best years are yet to come for Trinity!
And as we always conclude our celebrations at Trinity, let’s go forth with thanks for the many blessings we have already received in the gifts of our work together; and let us express grateful confidence in the continuing presence of the power, wisdom and love of the good God in our lives and work.
So many thanks to all of you for this tremendous award and remarkable celebration.