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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Gift Exchange - A Trinity Christmas Story

Trinity Registrar Fred Rodriguez knows a good thing (or two) when he sees it. When he came to Trinity he soon identified one of his employees, Claudette Reese, as "a jewel." She helped him transition during a difficult time for the office. She trained him.

Claudette worked at Trinity for two-and-a-half years, from 1999- 2001. Her time here was cut tragically short by an auto accident that left her in critical condition, and her husband Timothy deceased. The vehicle they were in was hit at an intersection in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on December 6, 2000. Claudette accompanied Tim, who volunteered to participate in a webinar for the Social Security Office. Tim passed away from his injuries on December 28, one day after Claudette's birthday.

Injuries and Healing

That Claudette survived was somewhat of a miracle. The list of injuries is as impressive as it is frightening: three broken ribs, punctured lung, broken clavicle, facial lacerations, fractures to the pelvis, dental injuries, and a shattered elbow. Today Claudette is quick to point out that the most shattering wound of all was losing her husband of 30 years. Fred Rodriguez was concerned that Claudette, who was in critical, wouldn't make it. He says the pain was immense and she was still struggling, physically, a year after the accident and is still recovering some 15 years later. 

Claudette would eventually move home to Austin, where she worked as an administrator at Scott and White Hospital.

There is another...

Jennifer Reese was a student at Southwest Texas State - now Texas State - in San Marcos when she learned of the accident. She was preparing for finals. Her mom still can't believe that she completed all of her finals successfully while traveling back-and-forth and not knowing whether or not her parents would survive through the holiday season. Jennifer went on to graduate in 2003. And it was later that year that Claudette would urge Jennifer to apply for a position at Trinity's Registrars Office. Registrar Rodriguez knew he had struck gold again. Jennifer started at the front desk, became the Graduate Coordinator, and now works as the Degree Audit Coordinator. Jennifer received her MBA in Business and Marketing at Texas State in 2009.

Like Mother, like Daughter

Jennifer had been here before. When she came to visit campus after her mom started here she thought the trees smelled like grape bubble gum. For years after she started she would find other reminders of her mom. "I used to go through old files and would stumble upon things that she had put her mark on," Jennifer told me. Claudette had coordinated classroom reservations and Jennifer would see the notes and pictures she left of the spaces in the on-line reservation software system.

Jennifer says she tries to live up to her perfectionist mother. Rodriguez describes the two as very similar in how they approach their work. They are both driven and eager to get down to business. He says Jennifer is a bit quieter and more serious in her approach. Rodriguez says, "They are extra dedicated, sharp, organized, and detailed. Under their exteriors they have great humor." They are not the same person though. Claudette loves classic rock and gambling junkets - Jennifer, tote bags.

Claudette and Jennifer
Christmas Tidings

Despite their tragedy, Jennifer, her brother and sisters, and Claudette, all celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm.The memory of the Christmas they spent at a private Ronald McDonald House in Dallas in 2000 seems like a long time ago. Jennifer says her mom still enthusiastically decorates, placing a tree in every room.  "Mom still makes sure we get ten presents each," Jennifer says with a wry smile. They reminisce about Tim, especially during the holidays. A scholarship at Texas State bears his name.

Claudette describes Jennifer as methodical, patient, and sensitive. She says Jennifer never forgets her family's tragedy and uses it to focus on the human element of the people she works for and serves. Students wouldn't know what Jennifer went through. She is focused on them when they come to her for assistance. They never know her sense of persistence and courage. Jennifer is proud of her 12 years and hopes to stay on for a long time. She has deeper roots than most as a member of the Trinity family.

This holiday season the Trinity community should be thankful for many things, including Claudette and Jennifer. Claudette says that were it not for the accident she may still very well be here. In many ways, she still is. Merry Christmas!

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