Dr. John Brazil announced his resignation at the Board of Trustees meeting on January 23, 2009. The University community was informed later that day by mass e-mail and the story was reported two days later in the local San Antonio Express-News. Dr. Brazil will retire in January, 2010, enabling the University to conduct a thorough search for a successor.
In a touching e-mail to the campus community on Friday night, Dr. Brazil noted the difficulty of the decision for he and his popular spouse, Janice, offering "No doubt I will have opportunities before next January to express my gratitude to you individually and collectively for all you have done to make Trinity a better place. Let me say here only that the words I use on those occasions will be heartfelt, for all their inadequacy. I look forward to our mutual efforts during the next twelve months on behalf of this inspiring place and the people that make it so estimable."
Dr. Brazil followed Ron Calgaard in the presidency ten years ago, though it seems like yesterday that he was first introduced on campus at a faculty/staff assembly in the Chapman Auditorium. That unveiling was essentially the day the University learned of his appointment. People noted that the Bradley University Web site (where Dr. Brazil was serving) was lit up with hits from San Antonio that day. When a new president takes the helm there is always great interest among the University community. The new president can serve in any number or combination of roles: fund-raiser, community liaison, visionary, academician, and leader.
Dr. Brazil was always clear about his vision - build on the legacy of Dr. Calgaard and make "excellent" even better. The life of a University president isn't easy. Students everywhere wish for more visibility in a president. Modern presidents, however, do most of their work on behalf of the campus outside of the campus borders, doing fundraising and attending -- almost nightly -- community events and hosting receptions and dinners. The schedule of a chief executive is grueling.
Following the hands-on, top-down management style of Dr. Calgaard, Dr. Brazil delegated much authority to his staff while being a firm leader with specific plans for the campus. This is evident in the list of impressive work during Dr. Brazil's tenure; most notably the construction of the new Northrup Hall, the $200 million capital campaign, the growth of the nationally-recognized library, and the addition of faculty positions. Additionally, Dr. Brazil directed reviews in virtually all areas of campus. These included an integrated marketing plan through Public Relations (now University Communications), a communication audit through Admissions, a curricular review, and a review of student life through the Quality of Student Life Task Force in 2001.
The list of other accomplishments, to name only a few, includes divesting in the Sudan, adding a multi-cultural staff member to Student Affairs, declaring MLK Day as a Trinity holiday, rolling out card access for facilities, creating the new IM field, approving the renovation of many residence halls and Mabee Dining Hall, expanding Paul McGinlay's soccer field, permitting alcohol in the Tigers' den, designating a week of vacation during the holidays for all staff members, expanding international admissions, authorizing a study of Greek Life, saving KRTU, putting directional signs on campus (yes, it does matter!), and investing a huge influx of resources for top-notch technological resources on campus. On that note, one of the President's top decisions was bringing Michael Fischer to campus as the Academic Affairs VP while appointing Chuck White to oversee technical and administrative operations.
I was personally humbled when Dr. Brazil asked me to serve as the temporary interim Vice President between the tenure of Gage Paine and Felicia Lee. In that time I was able to see his style firsthand. I learned that the President was extremely reasonable, fair, caring, open-minded, and certainly in charge. It was a terrific opportunity for me, and reinforced that the President was an excellent leader for Trinity University.
Dr. Brazil has always supported the Residential Life Office, which I oversee with resources and attention. Dr. Brazil truly values the residential philosophy of Trinity. One strength of the president (often unseen) has always been his ethical decision-making. Like Dr. Calgaard, he was never compelled to make a decision because of pressure from a parent, an attorney, the media, or a donor. Conversely, such pressure usually resulted in greater steadfastness in doing what was right, not popular. On the other hand, Dr. Brazil has been the toughest sell on issues such as the Community Initiative program and the Sophomore College in the residence halls. His interest in student opinion was evident his first year when he listened to the ASR president and brought the full TigerCard operation to campus. He also serves as the last appeal in conduct suspensions and about half the time has offered compassionate leniency to students who maybe haven't deserved it, allowing them to complete their education. President Brazil has been very good to me and my family. It has made my long-ish tenure here easy.
So what next? A trustee has been named to chair the search committee. Undoubtedly there will be many voices heard in the search process and many ideas of the type of leader that the University needs in the post-Brazil era. Participate in the poll at right to express your preference.
In the meantime, the campus community should take every opportunity this year to reflect on, and be thankful for, the many exceptional works of president John Brazil.