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Remembering Carole King


(Photo of Carole King)

When we talk about serious renovations at Trinity, most people think of our venerable buildings and how much work we still must do to achieve full modernization.  But when I became Trinity’s president in 1989, the buildings were only one aspect of an institution that needed modernization and deep renovation in many structures and systems, not only those expressed in granite and concrete.  Trinity’s approach to personnel management in 1989 was largely serendipitous, occasionally chaotic, and definitely pre-modern.  To renovate Trinity’s management of our human resources policies and practices, I needed to find a leader who had not only the experience and talent to undertake such a large task, but also the personal fortitude, drive and determination, flexibility, good humor and personal grace necessary to bring everyone along into the modern age of Human Resources.

Fortunately for Trinity and for me, Carole King decided to forsake the world of retail after learning the ropes of personnel management with Montgomery Ward.  She joined Trinity’s administration in 1991 and immediately tackled the old Personnel Office’s antiquated record-keeping, scattered policies and missing assessment procesess.  Along the way she transformed the office into a modern Human Resources Department and launched her quarter-century-long devotion to Trinity, our faculty, staff and students.  Carole started out as our Director of Human Resources and then became the Vice President for Human Resources several years ago.  She retired in December after 26 years of great service to Trinity.

Sadly, Carole died last week only three months into her retirement.  When we said farewell to her in December, we hoped she would enjoy a long and happy next life stage which she richly deserved.  Now, we remember her fondly and with so much gratitude for what she meant in all of our lives at Trinity.

I could always count on Carole to “be there” whenever a need arose.  The photo above is from the period of the great snowstorm in February 2010 when we were closed for a week.  But that didn’t stop Carole!  She had a payroll to get out, and wanted to be on campus to be sure that everyone was ok, including the Facilities Team and staff in Food Service and Security who worked through the blizzard to take care of our students.  Carole always had that kind of leadership disposition — if there was a crisis, she swung into action.

Carole’s first “crisis” involved a box of pewter plates and bowls.  When she first took office, she discovered a storage room that appeared to be filled with curious items engraved with the names of various employees, many of whom no longer worked at Trinity.  She soon learned that the former president had ordered these “prizes” to give to staff instead of raises one year.  That idea did not go over too well, so the plates and bowls were quietly retired to a basement room.  Carole and I agreed on something very important from the start:  we had to give real raises every year even when money was tight.  She figured out how to make good use of the pewter prizes (I didn’t ask, she told me she handled it!) and we set out on a course to make sure that faculty and staff salaries would increase at least a little bit each year.

Carole’s knowledge of benefits administration ensured considerable improvements in our faculty and staff benefits package, and she worked tirelessly each year with Trinity’s benefits consultant to negotiate the best possible rates for health insurance.  Keeping health benefits rate increases in low single digits was one of her great accomplishments.

Carole’s office was always a hub of activity, from meetings with various staff groups to candidate interviews to discussions of policies and — ever so occasionally — problems!  Ok, yes, we did have a few problems from time to time.  I knew I could count on Carole for wise, level-headed advice and a clear sense of how to resolve issues fairly.  Carole always sought to find the fairest, most sensitive way to address complex issues for individual staff members.

(Carole and colleagues at the Academic Center “topping off” party in 2015)

Carole willingly took on many projects well beyond the typical duties of the chief human resources officer.  She was Trinity’s corporate secretary and worked with the Board of Trustees, and also was our campus notary.  For a period of time she supervised the Department of Public Safety.  She worked closely with our partners at AlliedUniversal, Aramark, Sodexho, Barnes and Noble and other major vendors to make sure that their personnel meshed well with Trinity’s needs.  She took on the Post Office/Print Shop supervision as well, a vital part of Trinity’s daily life.  Carole would also rise to the occasion for any and all moments when we needed “all hands on deck,” from organizing the staff marshalls for commencement to commandeering registration for Alumnae Reunion.

Since the news of Carole’s death circulated last week, I have received dozens of notes of remembrance and gratitude from faculty and staff who valued her as a colleague and friend, and I have shared these with her family.  Carole loved Trinity, our colleagues and students, but her greatest love was her family — her children and grandchildren whose photographs proudly graced her desk and popped up on her iPhone regularly.    Our hearts go out to her family; we feel privileged to have known her, and memories of her laughter, wisdom and kindness will be with us for a long time.

With apologies for a slight paraphrase of the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, “There’s no friend like the old friend who has shared our morning days; no greeting like her welcome, no homage like her praise.”

If you would like to add your memories of Carole, please share them in the comments section below.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: