Google Analytics Tracking Code

Monday, May 20, 2013

Extra innings

Baseball seniors 2013

Noelle 2001
Eleven members of the Trinity University baseball team were honored in a special commencement ceremony on Monday, May 20, 2013. The seniors missed their regular commencement on Saturday, as they were participating in the NCAA D-III playoffs in Austin. The team had a winning season and it was a pleasure to participate in the extra ceremony. (Editor's note: I get great pictures as part of the platform party!)

The tradition of special ceremonies at Trinity dates back, in my era anyways, to Noelle Stockman (now MacGregor), who was ASR VP and a softball player. She is a regular reader of my blog too! She insisted that President Brazil do her honors under similar circumstances. That was in his office in the old Northrup. Nice tradition Noellie.

President Ahlburg was on top of his game at this year's ceremony, comparing himself to an umpire by calling the graduates "safe" after he conferred their degrees. He also suggested that the audience sing "Take me out to the Ballgame" rather than the Alma Mater. Not bad for an Aussie who loves Cricket.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fifth Annual: The Year in Review - 2012-2013

As you will note in the section below ("Big Hurts"), I experienced some losses in a variety of dimensions this year. I playfully described the exodus of my friends and colleagues Raphael Moffett, Ben Newhouse, and Rick Roberts in a post in September (Breaking Bad). In that post, I included an application for new friends. Alumni Sponsor Jim Boelens, my son Nathan, and an anonymous person responded. So did the four students above. We had lunch in the Skyline Room last week. Turns out, they are all friends with one another and I am the newest cast member. So here's to my new BFFs Erin, Emily, Tyler, and Ben. And here is to another memorable year of highs and lows at Trinity University.

More regular posting to resume in the fall.

Top Stories

1. Bollard-gate
This story, about a closed road on inner campus, had legs from beginning to end this year. As with most things in relationships, it wasn't JUST about bollards and access. It was about students wanting to be heard and administrators looking long-term. And it was a flash point. (Guess who won.) A positive outcome was that new VP Gary Logan has added students to the master planning advisory committee for the future.

2. Fraternities and Sororities
Besides bollards, the reinstatement plans and ultimate return of four organizations also consumed a great deal of Trinitonian coverage. So did the blueprint for the future.

3. HOPE Hall
Students organized academic, service, and leadership components into a residential community to learn and take action on the issue of homelessness. This may be a perfect formula for future living-learning communities, as encouraged in the new strategic plan.

4. Tacos
ARAMARK surprised students with the announcement that local favorite - and nationally recognized - Taco Taco will have a satellite operation in the Coates Commons next year. Our dining program is evolving!

5. Construction
That it is still happening, and is winding down, is a story arc that may never be nudged from the top ten. CSI nears completion. Other projects are on the table (see "On the Horizon.")

6. Jurgens
Yes, a personal favorite of mine. The Dog Jurgens had a great run here, including a heart-warming 9/11 program with family members of hero Paul Jurgens. And she is set to graduate from bomb-sniffing school in late May before heading to her first assignment, one of the airports in Houston. Sniff.

7. APO
This was a tough one, as members of the organization engaged in personal and organizational issues fraught with blurry lines, connections, and emotionally charged - and messy - attempts at resolution. With lessons this learned we can all look forward to seeing this important group rebounding next year.

8. Staffing
Two new VPs (Gary Logan and Lisa Baronio), departures of CCI stalwarts (Moffett and Newhouse), and the promotion and hiring of new staff (Thompson, Polivka, Bovio) had far-reaching direct and indirect impacts on student life.

9. Strategic Plan, Curriculum, Activity Bock
A lot of talk, but not a lot of resolution. Yet what can matter more? So these things have to make the top ten. These should all be higher in the future as talk turns to action. Often complicated, occasionally contentious, frequently controversial, and laced with compromise, these issues will set our direction for a long, long time. No sleight at number nine, but watch for a big jump in the next two years.

10. Skyline Room
Renovation of this space has moved the dining program refurbishment closer to completion. Tacos by August, CSI menu by January, more Commons changes are on the horizon.


All Things Trinity (a fun tournament style game of Trinity favorites)
Sherlock Gnome (a broken mascot breaks and is replaced, and cleverly renamed)
ASR (amazing how money brings power - and nice job to the officers and senators!)
Trinitonian and TigerTV (outstanding student communication laboratories and products)
TU license plates (haven't seen many yet, but feels like we are in the big leagues)
Bell Center Bandit nabbed (locker room thief gets chased down by TUPD)

Tattoo column (big fuss about so little - nice save Trinitonian. I thought the President was being whimsical, topical, and trying to discuss a student-oriented topic. Last time he will do that...)
Put Yo Hands Up (lots of money for a punch-line Mr. Hype-man)
On-line gossip sites (rude, anonymous, crass, short shelf lives...)
Men's conference (the miss is that it didn't happen this year - future in question)
Drug Dog (no Jurgens, this dog, brought into the dorms, made an impression none-the-less)
Lectures (low attendance means soul-searching, incentives, and accountability for the future)
Skyline (liked by many, disparaged by more, great potential...)
Monte Vista (concerns may have some merit - or not, but we are SO lovable)
Tower bells (with all of our high-tech, people missed the bells when they were shut down for repair)

Under the Radar
Career Services changes (new direction and additional staff in the future)
Drugs and laws (students hearing conflicting messages with medicinal exceptions and legalization)
Presidential Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll (over 100,000 hours... it has become common place now. POP goes the bubble.)
Playboy condoms (could we be any tackier? Maybe HH can sell them in person at the POD in his jammies and robe.)
Trinity Food Project (HOPE Hall move over - the Trinity Food Project is coming)
Tower lights (yes, I control the special occasion lights with my iPhone)
Leadership awards (a favorite event, personally, reinforcing how much better than me our students really are)

Big Hurts
Sheena (loss, tragedy, heartbreak, impact, and grief)
Chris (alumnus, friend)
Legends (Trinity was built by many great people)
Jurgens (tough to say farewell)
Nutmeg (our 12-year-old golden, lived her last year in the shadow of puppy Jurgens. We lost her April 2 and miss her dearly.)
My friends (see photo, above)
Brian Hirsch (Career Services director says farewell next week - thanks for everything Brian!)

On the Horizon
Web page (look for a new Web and marketing presence)
Fire lane and inner campus walkway near Magic Stones (it will be so cool)
CSI (opens in full in January. Had a tour and it is spectacular!)
Chi Delta Tau teams up with Yellow Cab on new safe-ride debit card program
Coates (look for a more student-friendly lobby in 2014)
Lectures (swipe, get points, get something... ideas?)
Winn Witt (summer renovation means all first year and sophomore college buildings will be recently renovated)

Year 4
Year 3
Year 2
Year 1

Bonus tracks
In case you missed it, here are some other topics I got to write about this year. Trinity is rich with material:
Inspiring student
Cool Coach
Trinity in the movies
On Belonging
On Falling

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Harder We Fall

I'm ready now. To post on this topic, I mean.

I haven't been, since November. That's when I learned that a Trinity alumnus named Chris jumped to his death in Mexico. His parents broke it to me. I didn't remember Chris as a student in the mid-1990's. I met him, officially, in the spring of 2011. That's when he showed up on campus a bit down on his luck. Members of the Student Affairs division and some other kind souls on staff reached out to him and tried to help.

Chris and I became friends. He had issues, but he was kind, funny, indignant, and easy to talk to. Especially about sports. And he didn't want to show up on my blog some day. So I will say little else, except that we made a bet and it turns out we both won - technically. Instead of cashing in on my lunch, I cashed in in a different way. His parents made two generous donations for me to disburse to other alumni who might one day show up to campus needing help. They are gracious, even in their grief.

When a first-year student, Sheena, took a similar path last month I wasn't ready, again. I didn't know her as a student either. Her actions were just as jarring, though. They shook the whole campus community. Like Chris, she has a grief-stricken and gracious family. They probably don't want her to be on my blog any more than Chris wanted to be. So I will say little else.

Reverend Nickle asked me how I was handling Sheena's death. He knows my mom killed herself when I was a college student. That event defined me for some time. I talk about it freely now because I have a soft spot for college students who lose a parent. But that was a LONG time ago for me (over 30 years). The deaths of Chris and Sheena didn't bring my parental past back up as Rev kindly worried. It did bring up what happened to the lovely Melisse Buland in 2006. And this year has been more of the same.

I'm sad. And I guess I'm never ready when we lose a member of the Trinity family.

We all want to tie things up neatly somehow. "Look out for one another..." "Get help for yourself..." "Get help for others..." "Pay attention to signs..." This community does all that. And it is really difficult to keep stats on the lives saved. I suspect - thanks to the care extended by faculty, staff, students, and parents - that the number of students helped would be incredibly high. But those numbers we speculate on are over-shadowed by the concrete number of losses. There is no ambiguity with those. With Chris and Sheena, they were determined, if not impulsive. And that is a dangerous combination.

I vacillate, honestly, about how I feel about suicide. In some ways, one has to feel such despair, such pain, and such hopelessness, that suicide seems like the ONLY option. How can any of us judge. On the other hand... Why not give the rest of us a chance to help? Why not wait a day? Because lost in their own turmoil is one certainty: When others fall, we fall with them.

In the end, we are left to wonder - because we have lots of  unanswered questions. We don't know - with our Melisse's, Chris's, and our Sheena's - if we could have made more of a difference. We wonder if sometimes pain plus determination equals utter helplessness. In these few cases, perhaps there was nothing we could have done. Maybe that makes it easier to bear. Or worse, maybe harder.