February 21 Community Survey: Planning Fall 2021

February 11, 2021

We conducted a new community survey in early February and as of this writing 259 members of the campus community have participated.  Thank you!  The chart above shows the proportion of each participating cohort.

Question 2:  How’s It Going?

The second question is one we also asked several times in the fall, just a temperature check on the community.  [See the bottom of this blog for a comparison chart showing the data from the fall on this question.]  As we saw in the fall, the faculty and staff say things are going the same as they expected, or even a bit better.  Students, however, while generally positive, have a few concerns.

Some sample student comments include:

  • Since we started Fall 2020 classes online, I feel that I have gotten used to the way online schooling is. I no longer have trouble with ZOOM or other platforms to get into my classes. My professors are very comfortable using online resources as well which is great.
  • I feel very zoom fatigued. I spend 80% of my day completing homework online, reading my textbooks online, attending class online, and more online. Even though I take breaks as often as I can, my vision feels exhausted. Even though I have an asynchronous class, the professor substitutes class time by giving us online work which is more time on my computer screen. I love school and I love learning but healthwise I am very zoom fatigued which has unmotivated me.
  • I am overwhelmed by the amount of work given. It is stressful.
  • Professors are improving on how to work out Zoom and how to orient the class around in the internet. I am still doing strong in my classes and keeping to a schedule so things are going as I expected.
  • My teachers are cool and I’m learning some really interesting thing.
  • Even though the spring semester is shorter, it doesn’t mean that it is easier. This is the case when we are on campus, imagine how it feels while being remote? The deadlines are still back to back and the workload hasn’t changed much in my opinion. I have been struggling personally trying to balance everything out. It definitely gets discouraging at times because you want to be the best you can be but with all that’s going that is difficult.
  • Since we started Fall 2020 classes online, I feel that I have gotten used to the way online schooling is. I no longer have trouble with ZOOM or other platforms to get into my classes. My professors are very comfortable using online resources as well which is great.
  • This is my first time taking classes online. I did not think I would like it, but I was wrong online classes are great. I would not have returned if I had to come on campus although I miss the campus, I would not have felt comfortable due to the pandemic.

Some sample faculty comments:

  • Spring of 2020 was an emergency situation, finishing class a well as possible under the circumstances. During Summer and Fall we settled in and learning to do virtual classes well and serve our students remotely in involved a lot of work and revision. By the beginning of this semester, I think most are now familiar and comfortable with the new circumstances and how to get things done.
  • To date, the semester is running smoothly. I attribute summer planning on the front end (for the continuation of remote instruction) as being critical to the success of the semester. Student feedback on the decision to remain remote has been mixed. I have some students that are doing well and thriving with remote instruction while others are frustrated and find remote instruction to be very overwhelming.
  • Students are demonstrating increased ease with coming “on camera” and discussing course topics with each other. The breakout rooms allow the instructor to easily mix/match students to share ideas.
  • I am brand new to Trinity and am loving teaching here!

Sample staff comments:

  • I think the work at Trinity seems to be moving on without issue. I continue to be concerned about our nation, vaccine rollout, increasing virus strains, economy, etc…..seems like things will be tough for a bit longer before things start to improve. I thought we would have been further in the recovery at this point.
  • With the restrictions mandated in place by the mayor. I learned that we are working according to their regulations. I am thankful that Trinity has made this process extremely flexible. Especially with dealing with all the uncertainties.
  • This time last year, I was stressed about disemployment, but now I have a stable full time job. I also appreciate that the facilities are clean at all times. I also appreciate that everyone wears masks the majority of the time if not at all times. I feel that this time around, I know what to expect and what to take better care of. I am still very stressed out, but I am also hopeful that this will end soon.
  • Since pivoting in March of 2020, online instruction has come a long way in a short amount of time. Everyone from faculty, staff, and students have acclimated rather well. It’s almost become business as normal. Instructors have enhanced their skills with Moodle, students have increased their skills using Zoom, and everyone sees how doing so has catapulted the university to a new level; one of the positive things we can say has come of the pandemic. The university has adjusted, grown, and leveled from the circumstance at hand. Trinity is now coasting during the Spring 2021 semester.
  • I believe Trinity needs to implement more efficient rules when it comes to student’s visiting offices. Too many students have come into offices without checking with security and it is a shock to the staff. I think limiting how many students can come in only due to the rises in cases of COVID.

Now switching-up the order of reporting responses to get to the key question about Fall 2021 planning:

Question 6: Planning for Fall 2021

We invited input on planning for Fall 2021 and this will be the main topic we discuss in the Campus Conversations on Thursday at 4 pm.  Overall, as the chart above reveals, there is nearly universal agreement that masks and social distance must continue to be required.  On the other end of the spectrum, there seems to be strong concurrence about two things:  the vaccine should not be mandatory, and returning to face-to-face classes will only come when everyone really feels safe.  Faculty and staff want to continue to choose whether to be present on campus.  Students want traditions restored and athletics.  These are all important issues that have different implications that we will continue to discuss as the semester moves along.

We made a chart that looks a little dense, below, but we wanted to compare faculty and student responses on this question:

On the chart above, the columns where the base is dark purple are faculty answers, and the columns where the base is light purpose are student answers.  The columns are paired so that, moving from left to right, each set of two columns show the faculty/student replies to each item listed on the bottom (sorry for the vertical type, I could not get it to pivot correctly).

Looking at the pairs, there is remarkable agreement between faculty and students on some issues such as masks, 6 foot distance, virtual services, rotational staffing, reluctance to return to face-to-face classes.

Where you see some yellow highlights, those are issues where there is significant divergence between faculty and student answers, as follows:

  • While 90% of faculty agree that faculty should choose the teaching modality, 65% of students agree, a wide enough gap to merit a closer look.
  • 78% of faculty say that classrooms should be kept at 10 or fewer, 91% of students want classrooms kept at 10 or fewer.
  • 55% of faculty agree with continuing mostly online classes, compared to 79% of students.
  • 44% of faculty say we should try to have some of the traditions in-person while 79% of students want traditions in-person restored.
  • 36% of faculty agree that the vaccine should be mandatory, compared to 22% of students.
  • 34% of faculty agree that athletics should return compared to 44% of students.

Some faculty comments:

  • I think we should defer reopening campus fully until we can do it safely for all students, faculty, and staff. Specifically, I’m not sure if “mandatory” vaccinations is the answer but I would strongly encourage it and require regular testing for all students, faculty, and staff that wish to be on campus.
  • I have received only positive input from students regarding graduation. I think the smaller, more intimate, online experiences are better! They have no limits to people attending and elders and children can attend without concern.
  • It is hard to predict what circumstances will be like, but regardless, there needs to be flexibility and on-line options and large group gatherings should be minimal.
  • Continue to follow CDC guidelines but begin moving toward more in-person activities to decrease isolation and increase a sense of community. Safety is paramount as vaccination numbers increase.

Some student comments:

  • I think it is critical to offer online classes in the fall so that students who are high risk or caring for family members can continue to isolate. I think that things will improve with the vaccine, but until we know whether it prevents transmission and protects against the variants, it’s impossible to say that students will definitely be safe.
  • In-person traditions are great memories and experiences, however, the concern for public health with new strands of COVID. I am thinking of family members who are more susceptible to viruses.
  • My only opinion is to continue to keep us safe as possible. I do not agree with returning to in person learning for concerns of safety, but do agree that in person learning should happen for those who need it, such as those who are hands on learning. Keep offices open appointment only if a student needs face-to-face services. As a single mother of three school aged managing all virtual classes can be a challenge most days but does not mean I want to give up! I just would like more understanding…
  • While I think a negative test is ideal, I think making it a requirement before coming to campus is a challenge given the lack of free/affordable and convenient locations. I think finding ways to resume those in person traditions is important for mental health and rites of passage.
  • I believe that the path to normalcy should include hybrid classes for the fall. Students who are able to come to class in person should be allowed and encouraged. However, those who are not should not be penalized. It would be great if Professors could teach in-person, while streaming over Zoom.

Some staff comments:

  • With all of the new variants that continue to pop up I would like to err on side of serious caution. I have known far too many people to get this illness and struggle painfully through it as well as many that have passed away from it. I understand the need for some type of normalcy but, realistically I can’t envision that happening until more people are vaccinated and even more take this virus seriously by taking the proper precautions.
  • I think that our current plan is working. Because we are conducting classes online and holding virtual services, everyone involved–faculty, staff, and students–can feel good in knowing that we care about their well-being. As well, everyone involved is still working and making sure that services and teaching are seamless. It is always better safe than sorry.
  • A lot of what we decide around close gatherings, has to do with who decides to vaccinate, if vaccination is safe, and if the community is willing to take all precautions. I think “time” will tell.
  • Most people will probably not be able to get the vaccine until September-December realistically. We should allow face-to face courses in core subjects like math, English and science face-to-face with no more than 10 students per class. We should offer these courses online for students who wish not to come to campus as well. Offices and staff should continue on a rotational basis until everyone has been given the opportunity to get vaccinated. Meetings should continue on Zoom to limited contact between people and avoid the spread of the virus. Orientations and traditions should continue virtually until next fall (2022) to avoid the possible risks of spreading COVID. Everyone on campus should be required to wear a mask at all times.

Q3: Tell Us About Yourself

We asked you to tell us some information about yourself because this helps us with planning.  The chart above compares student and faculty responses to this question.  A few notable points:

73% of faculty say they will get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is available, but only 32% of students say they will do so.

4% of faculty say they will NOT get the Covid-19 vaccine, but 19% of students say they will not get it.

Many families have experienced Covid-19 infections, more than 20% for both faculty and students, and, sadly, 20% of students and 16% of faculty know someone close to them who has died from Covid-19.

For students, money is a top concern.  We will be providing more information about emergency grants as soon as the U.S. Department of Education releases the next round of CARES funds.

Q4: Your Spring 2021 Experience So Far….

Overall, levels of satisfaction with online and hybrid classes have increased since the fall, and most online services get good marks, along with the level of communication about all the issues on campus.  While there are some variations among students, faculty and staff in the responses, they are not remarkable.

Some student comments:

  • Trinity staff is PHENOMENAL during this time. My only issue is self trying to manage virtual classes and adjusting to different schedules due to having three school aged virtual learning and having my own personal issues. Other than that I have no problems! Trinity did an excellent job transitioning us to virtual learning and making us comfortable during this pandemic time!
  • I wish more of the hard classes could be in person.
  • I would like to know of more financial aid opportunities.
  • I have made request from certain Departments that have gone unfulfilled and I had to contact weeks later to have them done.

Some faculty comments:

  • Sharing written CDC guidelines being followed / not followed through and where we stand as a school community in addressing the needs. What further plans in sanitizing equipment or room after each classes,
  • Campus offices are generally very responsive and pleasant.
  • Very pleased with the Trinity DARE initiative–forward-looking and directly addresses our student population. Love the transparency of taking a historical look at the university’s past and not ignoring the racial issues that plagued Trinity…not that long ago.

Some staff comments:

  • Communications are great! As a staff member, I appreciate the opportunity to work from home, continued pay and benefits, Trinity’s commitment to keeping everyone’s jobs and the upgrades by IT. I could use some technology tips – I’m running out of storage space on my home computer. Tips?
  • I feel safe, however, it is prudent that people who are experiencing symptoms remain away from others. It is hard to enforce that and students need to be responsible for others’ safety and vulnerability. Also, it is critical that students remember to wear their masks at all times., especially in hybrid and face-to-face classes. I like that the university frequently stresses the importance of these matters to everyone.
  • The Thursday Campus Conversations are so unifying, and also so informative, for our campus community.

Q5: What Would You Change About Your Classes Now or In The Future?

We asked this question in our fall surveys and continue to see great divergence of opinion among faculty and student responses.  Some of the key areas of difference:

  • 66% of students — the top student concern — is “more flexibility in assignments” — but this topic rates last on the faculty list, only 2% of faculty rate this as a concern
  • 39% of faculty believe that students need more education in doing online learning well — but only 12% of students think so
  • 64% of students want more asynchronous delivery of classes but only 27% of faculty want asynchronous
  • 31% of faculty want more face-to-face classes but only 17% of students say so

Back to Question #2:  The Semester is Going… same…better…worse….

Ok, the chart below is a bit wonkish but it tells us about some interesting and important trends within our cohort groups.  At the top of this blog we presented the February 21 data for Question #2 about how the semester is going, showing that faculty and staff said “better” or “same” as expected, but some students replied “worse” than expected.  We asked the same question in three surveys in the fall, and it’s interesting to see how the cohorts answered the same question as the months went along.  On the chart below, the most recent survey (February 2021) is the left-hand column in each cluster, and then the columns march backward through the surveys taken in November 2020, October 2020 and September 2020.  Each set of four columns are the answers of a specific cohort group, see the labels on the top of the columns to see each cohort group (CAS, NHP and PGS are all students by academic unit).

A few observations about this data:

All cohorts are starting the spring semester at a higher confidence/satisfaction level than where they were in November.  The holiday break, opportunity to refresh and reflect, and lessons learned from the fall have reset expectations.

All cohorts also experienced declines in confidence/satisfaction levels in the fall as the months went along.  This is not surprising since the weariness and stresses of life in the pandemic began to take a toll in mid-October and into the winter months.

Will we see the same kind of downward trend during the spring months?  We can hope that we’ve learned enough to take steps to keep everyone’s spirits up and confidence levels strong.  Spring is coming, the vaccine gives us hope of an end to the pandemic at some point, there’s some great new fresh air in Washington and we have also proven resilient, creative and thoughtful about managing setbacks.

We’ll keep an eye on the trends…. and challenges.  And, yes, we will ask the same question several times this spring to keep an eye on the temperature level.

Thanks to all for your great participation in the survey!!  We will continue to work with faculty and students to improve the pandemic education experience.  There are no set answers, nor any easy answers.  What we do know is that everyone is striving hard, working to do the right thing, and learning a tremendous amount along the way — including all of us in administration who have never done this before, either!

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Hearts as Wide as the World

February 7, 2021

Sr Margaret

One year ago, the Trinity family gathered to celebrate the life of our beloved President Emerita Sr. Margaret Claydon, SND, Class of 1945 (photo above) who died on February 1, 2020.  Little did we know, at that time, how radically our world would change just a few weeks later due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Sr. Margaret’s Mass of Resurrection was one of the last times the Trinity family — alumnae, students, faculty, friends — were able to gather.  It was a great send-off for one of the most important figures in Trinity’s history.  I am so deeply grateful to all alumnae and friends whose contributions to the Sr. Margaret Claydon Scholarship Fund are now close to $500,000.  Thank you for this great tribute to Sr. Margaret!

During the last year, the Sisters of Notre Dame have suffered other losses, some due to Covid-19 or other illnesses.  Trinity mourns these losses with the SND family, and especially those women whose devotion to Trinity and our students made our mission so vital across the decades.

In my last blog, we paid tribute to Sr. Ann Gormly, SND, Class of 1945, Professor of Spanish and Dean of Students in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  So many alumnae have written about the many ways in which Sr. Ann influenced their lives, particularly challenging them to work for social justice.

Last week we learned of the death of Sr. Anne Denise Blake, SND, Class of 1964.  Sr. Anne Denise (photo left) was a valued administrative colleague during the 1980’s and early 1990’s at Trinity, serving in numerous roles including as Secretary to the Board of Trustees.  That particular job was quite strenuous in those years as Trinity’s presidency changed hands several times and Sr. Anne Denise had to help each new president learn the ropes of governance.  When I was a new president, so long ago, I remember her patiently sitting in my office reviewing Board minutes or reminding me of essential policies and forms of communication with the Board.  Her attention to detail and her eagerness to make sure that Trinity could thrive were marvelous to experience.

In early January, Sr. Teresa McElwee, SND, Class of 1971 (photo right) died at her community in Apopka, Florida.  While she did not work at Trinity, our students and alumnae who visited the Hope Community Center in Apopka certainly knew Sr. Teresa.  She collaborated with Sr. Ann Kendrick, SND, Class of 1966 and other SNDs in Apopka to develop the ministry to farmworker families in that region, a project that grew into the remarkable Hope Community Center.  Sr. Teresa devoted her life to working for justice and peace, and she received numerous awards and accolades including the very distinguished Papal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award.

These women are just a few of the remarkable examples of devotion to mission and service that characterize the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  I have written and spoken often of their central role in founding and nurturing the growth of Trinity; they have done the same in a great array of ministries throughout the world.

As we remember the great sisters who have done so much for so many, let’s reflect on the mission of the SNDs and think about the ways that all of us in the Trinity community — lay persons, persons of many different faiths and backgrounds — share in the gifts that the SNDs have given to us, and because of those gifts, the responsibilities we have to continue their work in all of the places in which we serve “with hearts as wide as the world.”

SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR

making known God’s goodness… educating for life.

Mission Statement

Sisters of Notre Dame,
women with hearts as wide as the world,
make known God’s goodness and love
with and among people living in poverty,
through a Gospel way of life, community and prayer.

Continuing a strong educational tradition,
we take our stand with people living in poverty,
especially women and children,
in the most abandoned places.

Each of us commits her one and only life
to work with others to create justice and peace for all.

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Remembering Sr. Ann Gormly ’45 SNDdeN

January 23, 2021

(Sr. Ann Gormly, SND, Class of 1945, in the dedication of the Class of 1971 yearbook.
Sr. Ann was then Dean of Students as well as Chair of the Department of Spanish)

When the Greens of ’74, my class, descended on Trinity’s campus in the Fall of 1970, we were very afraid that the revolution had already passed us by, so we set about making sure that we had our fair share of questioning authority and demanding liberation.  Woodstock was already two years gone; the Vietnam war was raging, and Kent State was fresh in our minds. Demonstrations for civil rights had grown larger and more urgent after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Washington was still reeling from the riots of 1968. Trinity, itself, had seen a student strike in the spring of 1970.  Our older sisters, so worldy-wise, seemed wired into all of the best protest demonstrations and “happenings” in Washington.  But we freshwomen were constrained by curfew hours and no-visitors policies as the senior officers and Sisters on the scene in Main Hall tried to wrassle our most unruly class into something resembling a civilized group of Trinity Women.  Most of us lived on the third and fourth floors of Main Hall in those days, with the most memorable episodes of our formative first year at Trinity taking place on the upper floors, the Marble Corridor and in Social Hall.

And so the day came when we were summoned to Social Hall for an important meeting with the Dean of Students.  As we entered and took our places lounging mostly on the floor, we noticed something awry:  all of the paintings that normally hung on the walls in Social Hall were gone!  What was this?

Enter Sister Ann Gormly, SND, the Dean of Students.  She stood before us, silent, seemingly seething, leveling her fierce gaze at each of us as she looked around the room and then pointed to the empty walls.  “You will not leave this room until those responsible come forward,” she said (or words to that effect, it’s been a long time since that day…)  Murmuring ensued among the Green Class of ’74.  Who was so nefarious as to remove the paintings?  Some of us already had gained some notoriety in other escapades — shooting water pistols down the Well or stealing curtains from showers or sneaking into the convent kitchen for ice cream — rather harmless diversions from long nights under curfew.  But stealing the paintings from Social Hall?  Unthinkable!

Sr. Ann left the room abruptly, and I don’t recall how long we sat there, but eventually, obviously, someone — several some ones — came forward to confess the Grand Theft of the Paintings.  They didn’t really steal them, they just moved them to another room, hoping, perhaps, that the Class of ’74 would be invited to decorate Social Hall in our own style.  Sr. Ann Gormly (and Sr. Margaret Claydon, our president then) were not amused.  I think some of our classmates had their curfews extended for quite a long time (being “campused” was the ultimate punishment in those days!).

Looking back on what now seems to me to be a somewhat hilarious episode — and with the insight that comes from being an administrator, myself — I think that rather than glaring at us, Sr. Ann Gormly was about to burst out laughing at us, and her hasty exit from the room was to save her from doing so in front of us.  She was the Dean, after all, and had to present a stern face to a chronically disruptive group.  But as the year went along, we began to see another side of Sr. Ann, one that endeared her to generations of Trinity alumnae.

She was a teacher as well as an administrator, the chair of the Spanish Department.  She was exceptionally progressive at a time when Trinity was emerging from its long traditions of an older age into a modern world where the counterculture was defying all norms, where the Church was in upheaval after Vatican II.  She was Dean at a time at Trinity of great change, internally and externally.

She was responsible for the orientation and formation of new classes of students who were influenced by the liberalizing forces of the 1960’s, women who no longer just accepted rules as the way things were, women hell bent on making new rules.  Rumor had it that she kept cash in her desk drawer in case students who went to antiwar protests downtown needed bail money.  She was philosophically aligned with the antiwar movement, the quest for social justice, the urgent need for peace at home and abroad.

She initiated service trips to impoverished people in Honduras in central America. She was a Sister of Notre Dame who stayed true to her vocation even as many others questioned religious life and chose other paths.  She found new pathways for her own vocation, leaving Trinity after 1971 to pursue work in SND administration, and then with the U.S. Catholic Mission Association, and later with Healthcare for the Homeless.  She continued teaching in her later years, always focused on teaching in ways that would bring help and hope to those in need.

Sr. Ann Gormly died on January 8, 2021 at Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati.  Because of the pandemic conditions, we could not have a celebration of her life at Trinity.  But we plan to do so as soon as we are able to convene again, probably in the fall or next spring.  Meanwhile, many alumnae are sharing fond memories of Sr. Ann — below are alumnae memories, and I welcome more (send them to president@trinitydc.edu or enter yours in the comment box).

Alumnae Memories of Sr. Ann Gormly ’45 SND

Narcissa (Ching) Escaler ’66:  I am deeply saddened with the passing away of one of the dearest friends of my life, Sister Ann Gormly. She was my Spanish teacher at Trinity College when I was a freshman in 1962 and we enjoyed a close and warm friendship throughout these  past 59 years together with Sister Seton in spite of my two short years at Trinity.

Despite the distance between the US and the Philippines and the work we did over the years which took us all over the world, we remained in close contact. Sister Ann even came to visit me in the Philippines and met my late husband, children and my whole family. She followed closely the unfolding events in my country when,  as a young widow, I  joined the fight against  the dictatorship  and helped install President Corazon Aquino as President. She was thrilled when I joined the office of President Aquino and later served as her Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and New York in 1989. She and Sister Seton came to visit and stayed with me and my children in Geneva in 1990 which was truly a memorable reunion.

I visited Sister Ann and Sister Seton very often all these past years, and even spent many evenings in their home on Quincy St. in DC whenever I would come to the US – the last one being a wonderful take out lunch at their new apartment in DC at the end of March 2019.

After they moved first to Villa Julie and then to Cincinnati in mid 2019 I completely lost touch with both Sister Ann and Sister Seton in spite of my repeated attempts to reach them. It was only recently when a former TC classmate of mine relayed the very sad news of Sister Ann’s passing. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

I loved Sister Ann deeply and will miss her terribly. She was a wonderful teacher, a role model and a true and dearest friend. But I know she is now at peace and in the arms of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.

I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to Jean, Charlie and Paula Gormly and to Sister Seton, for their great loss and assure them of my continued prayers.

Susan Widmayer ’68: I was blessed to know Sister Ann for almost 60 years from my first days at Trinity in 1961.   In addition to being my Spanish Professor, she sat in the office adjacent to the side door in the Main Building through which students entered when they came in after 8 PM .  I worked in the Library and Sister Ann greeted me when I returned just about every night.

I had decided to take Spanish because, even after nine years of instruction, my French was still terrible and I had hoped that I might do better in another language.  Every day for many months, I went to the Language Lab and practiced that day’s lesson.  Sr. Ann would see me there and occasionally ask how I was doing.  Eventually she stopped asking as she knew how hopeless my efforts were.

At the end of May of my freshman year, Sr. Ann asked if I would stay after Spanish class.  I stayed, but with much trepidation as I knew I was doing so poorly and Trinity required facility in a Modern Language for graduation.  The last thing I wanted to do was try to take Spanish or any language for another year and I knew I was failing .

Sr. Ann’s solution was that I take Spanish at American University, near my home, during the summer.  The A.U. program emphasized facility in reading and translating with no conversational requirement. That summer I “Aced” the required text on the life of St. Rose of Lima which Sr. Ann ultimately made acceptable for my Trinity requirement.

I had not thought of the kindness that Sr. Ann had shown me for several years until earlier this month, on January 8th, when neighbors and I were sitting on the driveway, as we “shelter in place,” and someone mentioned facility with languages.  Surprisingly to me,  I told everyone what my wonderful Spanish Professor had done for me.

I learned later that Sr. Ann had died that day.  Maybe her new “presence” in my life somehow reminded me how wonderful she and Trinity were to me so many years ago.

Maggie Raffa ’60:  Sister Ann Gormly was a wonderful Spanish teacher for me.  May she rest in the comfort of Jesus’ sacred hands.

Martha Knight ’67:  Being in Sister Francis'(Ann’s) course, we got to talking about travel to Honduras, my mothers country that I had visited the summer before coming to Trinity (my high school graduation present).  Sister Ann became more and more interested in the possibility.  After my mother contacted her friends there who were happy to host the students, it was a go.  The group of students from various classes went the first time in 1965 and had memorable experiences, staying with families, working in projects helping banana workers and workers in the city (San Pedro Sula) and the public hospital, Leonardo Martinez.  We observed the conditions of poverty as well as the warmth of the people and our host families and in visits to the capital and the Bay Islands where we got to know the British descendants there… Sister Ann went on to a significant career with international involvement.  Sister Ann was a warm easy personality and enjoyed all of us. The trips to Honduras had pivotal influence in some of the students, who went on to become missionaries, teachers and journalists to name a few of the professions.

Maria Alvarez ’67: I entered Trinity in the fall of 1963 as an international student from the Dominican Republic. We international students were immediately drawn to Sister Francis. She organized field trips to help us become acquainted not only with the area but with American History.  Thus, we visited Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Arlington, and many other important landmarks in the DC area; in the process we became acquainted with one another, as there were students from many different countries and native languages studying at Trinity. For Spanish-speaking internationals, Sister Francis made it possible for us to attend lectures and activities at Trinity and DC area featuring important writers and poets from Spain and Latin America. Her reaching out was very important to us and expanded our scope. I shall always be grateful.

Katherine (Karen) Lordi ’71:  She was a very dedicated Dean of Students and she made her appreciation of us well known.  She was always ready to guide and advise us and – in true Trinity style – always ready to party with us too!

Chris Casey Rath ’68:  I traveled to Honduras and to Spain with Sister Ann (then Sister Francis) as well as labored many hours in that language lab!  So many happy memories as she introduced us to the culture, heritage, language and to the concept and experience of service to others.  (I won’t tell about the time we all got locked out on the balcony of a hotel and one of us had to climb along the ledge to get in a neighboring room.) She was a friend and mentor…

Eileen Grieve Stokes ’73:  The loss of Sr. Margaret Claydon and Sr. Ann really signals the end of an age at Trinity.  While I never had Sr. Ann as a teacher, she and Sr. Margaret were the two anchors of Trinity in the 1960s and 70s.  My most meaningful memory of Sr. Ann is of my weekend visit to Trinity as a high school senior.  I was visiting for a long weekend.  I attended a class (I don’t remember whose), I had an appointment at the Development Office (I don’t remember much), and I had an interview with Sr. Ann in her office off the Marble Corridor.  That I do remember.  And I returned home sure that Trinity had moved up to #1 on my college choice list.  Another memory during my years at Trinity is of Sr. Ann’s smile.  She did seem especially to enjoy the Trinity  traditions — the class days and well sings in particular.

Kater Nicholson Pendergast ’67:    What an amazing life for Sr. Ann Gormly!  I knew her well– from Spanish class and as Dean of Students but especially from her leadership of the 1966 Honduras Summer group that gave all of us who participated a striking understanding of a world so different from our own.  At Trinity and afterwards, she brought her drive to action to all she did and enjoyed new people and cultures and relished travel.  I was fortunate to visit with her most recently in the fall of 2019 for a delightful lunch at the residence in Maryland with her dear friend Sr. Seton Cuneen “65.   May she rest in peace.

Some Twitter memories of Sr. Ann:

 

(Sisters of Notre Dame in 2017, above, at the dedication of the portrait of Trinity Founder Sr. Julia McGroarty on the Marble Corridor.
Sr. Ann Gormly is seated in the center.)

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“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman

January 21, 2021

Listen to and read the text of this amazing Inauguration poem by Amanda Gorman:

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

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Race and Reconciliation in Post-Trump America

January 17, 2021

(photo credit)

Thoughts on the day we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  What Would Martin Make of All of This?

I’m old enough to remember an inauguration that people hailed as signifying the “post-racial” America.  I was one of hundreds of thousands of Americans, maybe even a million or more, sitting in that crowd in the photo above cheering as Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009, becoming the first Black president of the United States.  We were giddy then about “hope and change” after years of terrorism, war and economic collapse.  The crowd on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol spilled down the Mall all the way to the Washington Monument, and it was hard to find anyone who was not positively thrilled that a new day had arrived in America.

How naive that joy seems today!  The latest crowd on the west lawn of the Capitol were insurrectionists, seditionists, white supremacists clad in camo, packing heat while waving confederate flags and pledging allegiance to their hero, outgoing President Donald J. Trump who instigated the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden as the next president.  Make no mistake:  Trump incited this insurrection, and it wasn’t just in one speech, nor in just his repeated false claim since November 3 that he won the election of 2020; in fact, he has been inciting a climate ripe for right-wing violence since he came down the elevator at Trump Tower to announce his presidential campaign in 2015.

Racial hatred, suspicion and fear have been debilitating characteristics of U.S. society since colonial days.  As much as President Obama’s election seemed an inflection point for the better, in fact, in so many ways the 8 years of his presidency served as a rallying point for the virulent streams of racism and white supremacy that have always been running just below the surface of American society.  Trump capitalized on the fears and hatreds of that section of the American electorate to win his 2016 election.  As New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote immediately after Trump’s election in 2016, “There has never been a moment in America in which black people’s gains have not been perceived by some white Americans as their loss.”  (The End of the Postracial Myth, November 15, 2016) (Note that Hannah-Jones is also the principal author of The 1619 Project)

Trump spent a good deal of his time in office focused on wrecking Obama’s work.  From the recission of DACA to repeated attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act to rolling back many rules for environmental protection to reneging on the Paris Climate Accord to cancelling the Iran nuclear pact to raising new barriers to productive relations with Cuba, Trump did everything possible to trash Obama’s work.  This was not just a matter of ideological difference; Trump’s rhetoric and actions were consistently laced with flavors of hate and contempt that went well beyond political differences of opinion.

Beyond trying to obliterate Obama’s legacy, Trump’s response to specific issues of racial hatred revealed his true intent.  From his callous remarks about “good people on both sides” after Charlottesville to his “Mexican rapists” and “animals” characterizations of undocumented immigrants to his refusal to admit to any police misconduct as case after case emerged of Black persons assaulted and killed by police, Trump clearly enjoyed goading his “base” into increasingly hostile racial ideology.  In what were, by comparison, much milder racial offenses, he attacked the 1619 Project and established a “Patriotic Education” commission; he issued an order banning diversity training in government agencies and contractors.  During the campaign, he repeatedly claimed that Joe Biden would allow “low income” people to flood into “suburban neighborhoods” which was a clumsy but effective use of racial inference to raise hackles among susceptible whites who seem ready to believe just about any demented myth about African Americans.

All of this messaging was playing to his base, people hearing a continuous recording of racist rhetoric and fearmongering, people being told that a Biden win would destroy everything they cherished, lead to “socialism” portrayed as some kind of special lefty hell — don’t tell grandad about Medicare and Social Security, gosh darn it!  The real hell was the possibility that a Black/Asian Woman would become vice president, that the presidential Cabinet would turn from blindingly white to the color spectrum, that DACA students would be able to come out of the shadows once more, that immigrants could look to the U.S. with hope again, that Black Americans might flex their rightful voting power and defeat Senate candidates whose records on racial justice and social equity are unacceptable.

The mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was comprised of a number of surprisingly well-educated and economically secure people who have not suffered deprivation in their lives.  They flew in for the riot.  They had drinks in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt after smashing the windows of the Capitol.  They celebrated trashing Speaker Pelosi’s office with good scotch.  From all videos and photos, they were almost all white.  And they committed violent, treasonous, unforgiveable actions against the United States because of their belief that they are superior, that their power is in danger.  The Lost Cause has been their cause, and stopping the certification of Joe Biden’s election was their means to retain power and control in the country.  They knew that because Donald Trump told them so.  “Take Back America” from whom?  They and Trump and his apologists seem unconcerned or obtuse or just outright contemptuous of the vast majority of Americans who not only elected President Biden, but who want to live in a peaceful, productive, racially and socially just society.

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, at noon we will officially enter the Post-Trump era.  Blessedly, and we hope, in peace.  But alas, because of the mob insurrection, because of the utterly debased and demented influence of Donald Trump that incited the riot, the millions of citizens who would love to assemble peacefully on the Mall to witness the Biden/Harris inauguration will be unable to do so.  Missing the event is a small thing, but the vacant Mall will be a gross indictment of the racist, indeed, fascist damage inflicted on our country by Trump and his followers.

President Biden and Vice President Harris, God Bless Them, have their work cut out.  But they can’t do it alone.  They need all of us — the great majority of Americans — to work with them to repair the damage of the insurrection and all that came before it.

Which leads to the idea of Reconciliation — an essential step forward for a good society that has experienced such a great convulsion, but impossible unless and until we deal with the truth of what has happened, and the responsibilities of the parties who caused the breach.

What Would Martin Make of All of This?

Dr. King would certainly have the right words for the perpetrators of the insurrection, and he would be unsparing in exposing their racial sins.  He would be incisive about the damage done to society when people allow themselves to believe the repeated lies of those who are clinging to power.

But Dr. King would also, I’m sure, want an active and constructive process of reconciliation — not just good words, but the hard work of getting those responsible to confess, to acknowledge their roles in creating the conditions that led to insurrection, that encourage racists to breed through generations.  He would challenge all of us to face the truth of this country’s long and deep embrace of racism, that we still have unfinished business from 1619 and 1776 and 1865 and 1964 and all the years along the way.  He would remind us that his dream is woefully unfulfilled, as is the dream of the founders of the nation who wrote lofty words about “liberty and justice for all” while owning slaves and not really meaning “all” in the sense of all of us.

(South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has some good words for us to think about.)

Reconciliation means that we all have to come to the table; that each person has to own the truth of their role and responsibility for creating the kind of society we must shape together.

Reconciliation also means that after personal confession comes confrontation of others who are also responsible.  Some critical institutions and leaders have failed American society on issues of truth and racial justice.  Among those that need confrontation and challenge to conscience are the many Christian denominations whose adherents waved “Jesus Saves” and other religious signage while vandalizing the U.S. Capitol; the religious leaders who encouraged their flocks to believe that Trump really won the election; the U.S. Catholic bishops who have been so disappointingly silent on the riot.

We educators must also hold ourselves and our institutions accountable.  I wrote a piece about this in the Chronicle of Higher Education and will have more to say on this topic in the weeks ahead.  The assault on the Capitol was a failure of education at many levels, provoked by the stunning lies of the president about the election, but also demonstrating a total breakdown of reasonable behavior and historical knowledge among those participating.  The racial divide in this country is part of the failure of education, not only in terms of what we teach but even in the very structure of our work, from the chronic segregation of public schools nearly 70 years after Brown v. Board of Education, to the mincing words of too many elite colleges and universities that say they’ll do better one of these days about access.

After confession and confrontation, reconciliation also leads to forgiveness.   But not the kind of blame-less “unity” that some members of Congress and other Trump supporters are bleating about right now, a kind of bleached-out insincere effort to paper-over the horrors exposed on January 6.  Reconciliation demands accountability, and forgiveness can only come when accountability is fully achieved.  Accountability is not revenge, as some Trump supporters in Congress allege, but rather, the moral acceptance of the need for atonement on the way to reconciliation and forgiveness.

The late Senator Ted Kennedy had a favorite quotation: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”  This country emerged from a dream, a dream that in the 18th Century was shared among privileged white male landowners who wanted to govern themselves free from the entanglement with a king an ocean away.  They created an idea of self-government that has become the world’s longest-running experiment in Democracy.  But from the start, this dream was flawed because of slavery, because Blacks and women and poor people were largely left out.

Dr. Martin Luther King called this nation to lift up the dream in a new way, to create the more inclusive, free and just society that would allow all people to flourish in peace and prosperity.  We have seen flashes of times when this can happen, but we have seen flashpoints when some want to deny and defeat the dream for others.  But the hope of that more just, more equal, more durable society still lives.  It’s up to us, now, to pick up the pieces and do the hard work of restoring the ability of this society and its people to create a better fairer, more just and peaceful society than what we have right now.

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