Education as an Act of Love: Bishop Menjivar’s Homily at Reunion

November 27, 2023

On Saturday, October 28, 2023, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Emilio Menjivar celebrated Trinity’s Reunion Liturgy in Notre Dame Chapel.  This is the text of his homily:

125th Anniversary of
Trinity Washington University

October 28, 2023

Congratulations to Trinity Washington University for its 125th Anniversary of Foundation and congratulations to the Class of 1973 for their Golden Jubilee of graduation.

125 years educating and changing the life of women. That is a great accomplishment.

“LOVE – AND DO WHATEVER YOU LIKE” is a statement attributed to St Augustine. Notice that Saint Augustine didn’t just say “Do whatever you like” but “LOVE and do whatever you like.” The word ‘LOVE’ changes completely the meaning and the outcome of the statement.

It is said that in the Old Testament there are over 600 different laws or commandments. That is without counting the many other precepts promulgated in other code of law such us the Mishna and the Talmud. Jewish People used to spend a lot of time arguing over trivial details of these laws that regulated their daily lives and relationships. Among so many laws and precepts which one is the most important? Is there one that touches the core of people’s relationship with God?

Jesus answered the scholar’s question quoting not one law but two. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and will all your mind.” Probably those who were listening to Jesus didn’t have any problem agreeing with this answer.  But then Jesus says: “The second commandment is like it: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”

By putting these two commandments together, Jesus was making a significant change in the understanding of the law. From the rest of the New Testament, it is clear, that we cannot love God without loving our neighbors at the same time.

We are expected to love God through others. We cannot love GOD in a vacuum, we must do it in a concrete way. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Jesus said (Matt 25:40).

Today’s First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus tells us very explicitly that we must show special concern and compassion to those who are the most vulnerable in our society and who are at risk of being treated unjustly. Today’s first reading tells us:

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.  If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.”

It is very clear that caring for foreigners, widows, orphans, and “the poor of Yahweh” is not a political issue. It is not! It is a commandment from God. And if we claim to be a just nation, “a nation under God,” we must do it without delay, without complaint, and without bias. Remember “you were once aliens yourself in the land of Egypt.” God would remind this fact to Israel when he was fed up with their behavior. To us Americans, God would have said: “remember your country is a country of immigrants.”

I would like to commend Trinity Washington University for putting the commandments in practice by showing LOVE in a very unique and concrete way: EDUCATION. It is said that To change your fate, all you need is education and hard effort.” “Education turns dreams into reality.”

But for many women, especially Black and Hispanic women, the fate is almost certain: lower education, low-paying jobs, poverty, and exclusion.

I am very happy to learn that Trinity is helping to break this pattern.

Trinity enrolls more D.C. residents and more graduates of D.C. Public Schools than any other private university in the city.  As a result, Trinity’s student body is 55% Black and 30% Hispanic.

Just as Trinity College was a pioneer in the education of women, an underserved segment of the population when it started, 125 years after, Trinity continues to be a forerunner in offering opportunities to underserved Black and Hispanic women. 10% of the undergraduate women are Dreamers, undocumented students with DACA status.

Gandhi said: “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.” I would add: “If you want to change the world for the better faster, make Higher Education more accessible to women and minorities. Indeed, Trinity has been changing the world for already 125 years by doing that.

Let us pray today that the Holy Spirit of God may continue giving Trinity Washington University, its faculty, the student body, alumnae, and benefactors, the vitality, the courage, the joy, and the generosity to continue the great mission of changing one person at a time.


Bishop Emilio Menjivar with Sr. Maureen White, SND (left) and Sr. Barbara Gutierrez, a member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees.

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Gratitude in a Time of Turmoil

November 22, 2023

November 22 — on the eve of Thanksgiving 2023, we observe the somber and still-stunning 60 year anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  I was 11 years old, a sixth grader at St. Margaret’s elementary school in Narberth, PA.  I remember the nuns suddenly asking us to pray, crying silently but they did not tell us why.  We were dismissed early; as we walked in our two-by-two lines down the street, a boy behind me whispered, “Kennedy was shot!” and everyone gasped.  On the way home I stopped into the local 5&10 where kids and adults gathered around a radio blaring the news that the president was dead.  People were sobbing. I ran home where my mom and brothers were glued to the television, all black and white with Walter Cronkite uncharacteristically choking-up as he read the terrible news, taking his horn-rimmed glasses on and off as the shock set in.  We didn’t move from the TV for nearly 4 days as the unthinkable tragedy unfolded with all of its mournful scenes of loss and remembrance.

Sixty years later, with all of the trauma and tragedy stalking our planet each day — war embroiling Israel and Gaza, war in Ukraine, political turmoil at home, gun violence and crime rampant, racial and ethnic hatred erupting in too many places — our daily preoccupation with so much terrible news may make the memories of six decades fade to sepia, a long-ago story hardly relevant today. I am reminded that, to me as a grade school child in 1963, the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 was about as far away (62 years) as the Kennedy assassination is from today’s urgent current events.

But such distancing of the impact of the Kennedy assassination would be a great mistake.  In some ways, November 22, 1963 was the beginning of the long unraveling of American confidence, a gash in the fabric of the postwar country that had a strong enough vision of itself to elect a dashing young man as president — the first US president born in the 20th Century — borne aloft with so many high hopes of a fresh new era of bold invention and intentional modernization of American life.  The years following Kennedy’s death were traumatic — the Vietnam war, assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, massive antiwar protests, deep racial unrest and violence, the Watergate scandal, and more.  And, yet, there were also triumphs and advances that realized the potential of Kennedy’s vision in real achievement:  passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the moon landing in 1969, advancement of women’s rights, acceleration of invention particularly in computers and digital technologies.

I have to think that Kennedy and his many supporters would abhor the tawdry state of American politics today, and would work in overdrive to try to correct the course of political movements to avoid the “death of Democracy” narrative that seems to be gaining steam, whether true or not.  Kennedy had many flaws, yes, but his gift of rhetoric also made it possible for him to communicate large ideas about governing and participation in a Democracy that few presidents have matched.  We remember his stirring inaugural challenge:  “As not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

As we look to tomorrow’s Thanksgiving celebrations, let’s remember Kennedy’s admonition, framed at the top of this blog, that, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”   Gratitude is not a weak concept, easily said and quickly forgotten.  Gratitude is a habit of mind and disposition to act, to return the gifts that others give us in the form of equally valuable acts of love, kindness, commitment and even advocacy for justice.

In this time of great national and global turmoil, on this Thanksgiving what leads us to express gratitude in a way that also compels us to take action?

We must be grateful for our freedom and individual rights.  We must act to preserve and defend our freedom and rights from all those who would diminish and deny them.  The threats are real, the need for action is clear.

We must be grateful for the people — family, friends, colleagues, neighbors — who bring joy, happiness, help to our lives.  We must not take them for granted.  Every day we need to return those gifts with our own sense of joy and commitment to make life a little better for others each day.

We must also be grateful for those who go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that we can live our best lives each day in peace and prosperity — the teachers and counselors, the doctors and nurses, the military personnel on duty in far away places, the first responders nearby and the advocates and activists for the causes that advance racial and social equity for all.  We should join them in common cause in every way possible since the “habits of the heart” — the work of people coming together in commitment to building a good society — are the only real way to ensure peace and justice for all.

To leaven these somber thoughts in worrisome times, below is a delightful poem by a very young Langston Hughes, one of the first he ever published in 1921.  Hughes went on to publish far deeper and more complex poems and plays, and he became the driving force behind the Harlem Renaissance.  But even so great and complex an intellectual, artistic and social leader as Hughes could also speak to the joy of the simple pleasures of life, of which “Thanksgiving Time” with its aromas and rituals is one of the best.

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Remembering Dr. Joan Kinnaird

November 10, 2023

Eulogy for Dr. Joan Kennedy Kinnaird by her son Stephen Kinnaird

We encounter life as much as life encounters us.  Three qualities of my mother, Joan Kinnaird, shaped her encounter with life.  The first is a loving joyfulness in all aspects of her life.  The second is her subtlety of mind.  The third is her rectitude, by which I mean her commitment to doing things the right way, and in particular treating people the right way.  These three traits produced a life of uncommon grace.

My mom was born in 1928, and grew up in the mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts.  Her family was not poor but met with adversity.  Her father died young, and her mother and aunt joined forces to support the household.  Life revolved around the Irish Catholic parish of Saint Patrick’s.

My mother used to say that three persons truly taught her in life.  One was Mrs. McGuire of the Saint Patrick’s parish school, who instilled in her a love of poetry and spotted Mom’s talent.  Mrs. McGuire encouraged her to aspire beyond the typical horizons of a Fall River girl.  As a result, at 16 she travelled to Poughkeepsie, New York on a scholarship to Vassar College.

My favorite anecdote of her time at Vassar demonstrates her trait of rectitude, in the academic sphere.  She had signed up for an English history class by Mildred Campbell, a prominent social historian and the second person who, in my mother’s view, truly taught her.  Professor Campbell wanted her charges to grapple with original sources, and so the first assignment was to analyze Bracton’s 13th century work on the Laws and Customs of England.  My mother dutifully descended to the basement of Vassar’s rare book library … and spent the weekend in tears.  She was clearly overmatched.  Translating Bracton from Latin and then analyzing it was too difficult and took forever.  She could not keep up with the girls from the fine Eastern schools who clearly had the polished Latin skills to breeze through the assignment.  They were not toiling in the bowels of the rare book library.  She would have to head back to Fall River where she belonged.  She finished her assignment late Sunday, and returned to the dormitory, despondent.  Well, the next day Mildred Campbell reviewed the class’s submissions and her eyes grew wide.  She burst across the hall to the office of Evalyn Clark, the other grand dame of the Vassar history department, and exclaimed, “Evalyn, we have a scholar in the freshman class!”  You see, the assignment was to analyze a translation of Bracton, not to translate Bracton.  So you may say, well, Mom was just careless about the assignment.  But Mom fell into error because she assumed the assignment was to be done the right way, and she spared no effort to do it that way.

That assignment, demonstrating astute analysis and heroic effort, marked Mom as a star from the beginning of her freshman year.  She went on to graduate first in her class at Vassar, summa cum laude.  She proceeded to graduate studies in history at Yale, which in the 1950’s did not admit female undergraduates, but did deign to train the future faculty of women’s colleges.  Vassar was so eager to keep Mom that it appointed her to its faculty after she earned her masters at the ripe age of 23 and was still working on her doctorate.  Mom felt queasy teaching students of her own age, with scarcely more training than they had.  But she found a way.

(Photo right:  Stephen Kinnaird giving the eulogy for his mother.)

At Yale, she studied history with William Dunham, the third person who truly taught her.  She again rose to the top.  The faculty called her in to tell her that she and a male counterpart had equally earned the top fellowship, but the faculty had decided to give it to him.  The reason was he had a family to support, whereas she was certain to be married in short order and would not need the money.  This being the mid 1950’s, Mom was not outraged, but instead flattered they were so certain of her marriage prospects.

Mom was an adventurer.  She loved travel; she had a Fulbright to the London School of Economics to study the role of the king in English constitutional law. After she earned her Ph.D., Mom deferred a professorship at Vassar to live in Turkey for a year teaching at a girl’s school for the cream of Turkish society.

She then returned to Vassar.  In a short span, she turned down multiple marriage proposals—the Yale faculty were right on that score—before finding her match in an erudite Vassar English professor, my father John Kinnaird, whom she married at the then-extreme age of 32.  My brother John and I arrived in quick succession.  And after the blur of our preschool years, and my father’s acceptance of a position at the University of Maryland, she came here to Trinity in 1968, which was such a perfect fit for her.  We will hear shortly from Mary Lynn Rampolla and Susan Farnsworth about that dimension of her life.

That was the point at which I began to have more conscious observations of Mom, and so I return now to the three traits I mentioned at the outset.

Mom had such a remarkable capacity to feel joy and bring joy.  Her joy was infectious, with her warmth and ready laugh.  She found joy foremost in family and friends, but also in ideas, culture, and nature.  Our family travelled to Tuscany when she was in her 80’s.  As our rental car turned the corner to a vista of an Italian hilltop town, she exclaimed, “LOOK AT THAT!”  Everyone’s heart leapt with hers.   She loved poetry, which she recited from memory all her life, even after her stroke.  Artistic works were for her, in the words of her beloved poet William Butler Yeats, the “singing masters” of the soul that teach us to clap and “louder sing for every tatter in our mortal dress.”  She clapped and sang vigorously until the end.

She had a dynamic mind that generated ideas; she delighted in discerning the truths of human life and the springs of human action, and most of all in exchanging ideas with others.  For her, knowledge was communal.

But it was her rectitude that completed the triangle.  One source of that was her Catholic faith, her sense of Christian humility and duty.  But she also had a concept, which she borrowed from Edmund Burke, of the natural aristocrat.  Burke’s was a political notion that men of merit and not class should rule the nation.  Mom converted the political to the personal.  She conceived of natural aristocrats—and I quote from a eulogy she wrote for a colleague who earned that honor—as persons “whose superior qualities set them apart without separating them from others” and who “personified taste, refinement, an instinctive courtesy, the principled life—and all without artifice or pretension.”  That sums my mother up rather well.  And it accounts for why people from all walks of life loved her.

To be my mother’s son is an indescribable blessing.  So too to be her daughter-in-law, her grandchild, her nephew or niece.  Because of her unique traits, there was such intentionality, so much thought and care and grace, in her love of each of us.

My mother rejoiced; she understood; she lived the right way.  We are all richer for having shared in her life.

Joan…. A Remembrance by John (Joan’s son John Kinnaird, photo left)

We remember Joan’s long life in tiny glimpses In little facets on a turning crystal …just moments that have meaning to us now. Moments that seem to show us something about Joan…

Memories arrive, spiraling toward us as autumn leaves from mist.

One memory has her wrapped in a Scottish tartan, in her grandmother’s rocking chair, with a resting dog by her slippered feet, absorbing the glow of the family hearth She was in reverie, thinking of her ancestors keeping warm on the cold Massachusetts frontier…

If memory serves, my aunt used to say that the best thing that ever happened to her brother, my father Jack, was definitely Joan ……and many great things had happened for him.

I remember a book of Emily Dickinson poems falling into her lap as she nodded off into a nap in the patio’s springtime sun.  Overhead, roses were floating on birdsong breezes.

I have a memory of Joan’s triumphant return from Paris with a big suitcase, stuffed with perfumed and sugar sprinkled gifts for friends but strangely….l don’t remember much of anything for her.

One memory I have of Joan was her busily wrapping presents with festive paper.She would produce a colorfully wrapped bedtime book for every child she  could meet.

Another memory of Joan was a house filled with columns of dog-eared European history textbooks stacked on every available surface and hidden under chairs and tables as well. It seemed these columns were supporting the house, and indeed they were.

Remember her letting out an exhilarated gasp which was drowned out by the Alaskan wind as the great gray whale breached high before the snow caps, showering diamond drops all around the boat.

I remember brimming bags of wine,cheese and baguettes from a French market 30 miles away, Nothing else would do… friends were coming…

Remember how she used to whisper prayers beneath her shawl . They were prayers for her beloved Pope Francis and his continued health, as she watched him beam across the eternal city.

David Byrne probably doesn’t remember, but he had a bewildered look as he looked down into the second row of the concert to see an 85-year-old woman, excitedly singing along with his Talking Heads songs. It’s not easy to bewilder David Byrne!

I can remember…. how a child’s hand pushed open her pine wreathed door to time tunnel back to a Victorian Christmas replete with baking gingerbread and a crackling fireplace.

A memory from Mexico, Joan stood in the dappled sun beneath the palms. Her eyes were wide and smiling again. Before her the ornate Mayan Temple of the Magician, towering in the bright blue heat of the Yucatan sky. Though the recent loss of my father still ached there was still magic in this world and she and her young sons had come to find it.

We remember Joan’s long life in glimpses of a story on the pages of an open book she forgot on the garden table. The wind turns the cottony soft pages ….

I remember her mittened hand, clapping a scream overcoming her fear so she could feast her eyes on the Alps below the Chamonix cable car. Some things just have to be experienced.

One might remember that she had labored for years and memorized reams of poems and prose by all those clever Irish wordsmiths lest she forget to bring a book and be in need of a bit of wit.

Joan is remembered for her vivid daydreams. She could picture Lorenzo De Medici resplendent in a red velvet cloak appearing on the high marble balcony surveying his civilization. Down below, the Italian piazza was mobbed with sticky gelato licking hordes that were oblivious to his presence.

Often, I recall, I would snuff out the midnight oil of her bedside lamp and gently remove her reading glasses. She had read her new book into the wee hours, intellectual satisfaction was more important than sleep to Joan.

Do I remember the poor postal worker, struggling up the brick sidewalk, arms laden with piles of charity outreach envelopes

Those charities work desperately to find generous souls like Joan.

Remember how her little car crossed the empty parking lots of the midnight airport to pick you up when your plane was late?

It was a car laden with refreshing snacks and drink with an angel at the wheel. it was an ambulance come to rescue the jet lagged.

In a memory from her youth, a foul tempered Egyptian camel lunged and grunted at Joan but she would not be intimidated. She had come to trek the pharaoh’s trail ….and would not be deterred.

Memory has it that many young girls left their beloved professor Joan’s office with eyes gazing upward and a slight smile. It was decided, they, too, would study abroad and go on to teach and inspire others.

I remember Joan sitting on the beach, looking through the circling gulls over rows of tiny whitecaps toward a distant ship. I knew what she was thinking of… It was her great grandfather sailing further out onto the main in his whaling ship.

These random memories coming to mind offer insight into a long life, well lived. I remember her and others will remember her differently. Joan was many things to many people …. A wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, mentor, scholar and…. of course,… a friend…

Thank you for joining us on this memorable day

Pat McGuire’s Blog Reflection on Dr. Kinnaird:

So compelling an influence on me was Dr. Joan Kinnaird, professor of History at Trinity, that shortly after I became Trinity’s president in 1989, she was able to convince me (her former student) to dress up like a medieval princess and sit high on a dais in Alumnae Hall eating roasted chicken with my hands as part of the Medieval Festival that she organized along with other History faculty and students.  Making history come alive with a large imagination and keen perspective on the customs, dress, music, food and sociology of each era we studied was Dr Kinnaird’s magnetic pedagogy, a style that kept students from all disciplines re-enrolling in her very popular courses.

Dr. Kinnaird, who died at the end of September at age 91, was one of Trinity’s most compelling faculty members, deeply devoted to the essential purpose of the liberal arts but always open to learning new pathways for intellectual engagement.  (We will have a memorial service for Dr. Kinnaird on Saturday, November 11 at 2 pm in the second floor chapel of Main Hall.)

I first met — or rather, observed — Dr. Kinnaird as she dashed into our 17th Century history class sometime in 1971.  She had a large briefcase/tote bag that she rummaged through, at last extracting a slip of paper on which she had scribbled an epitaph from a tombstone in a cemetery she had visited in France over the summer.  I confess I cannot remember the epitaph, itself, but what astonished me as an 18-year-old sophomore was the idea that we could learn history by visiting cemeteries and reading tombstones.

All of my prior encounters with history were dry as dust, textbooks heavy with dates and wars and men wielding power over helpless serfs.  Women were mostly absent, except as hapless victims or silent partners.  Suddenly, here was a teacher who blew that dust away, who pulled back the curtain on how people actually lived and talked and worked and thought about life in other centuries in places that became not-so-strange through the lens of her lessons; here was a woman teaching about the Women of History — I had never thought much about women as historical protagonists before taking Dr. Kinnaird’s class, and suddenly I began to realize that half of the human population was left out of all that I had previously learned.

(Powerhouse Trinity History Faculty in the 1975 Trinilogue: 
From Left:  Sr. Mary Lawlor, SND; Dr. Joan Kinnaird; Dr. Jean Willke (seated); and Sr. Mary Hayes, SND)

Joan Kinnaird was, in so many ways, the ultimate “Renaissance Woman,” so learned across so many disciplines, an avid reader across an astonishing range of literature, a keen observer of human conditions and foibles and fashions through the ages.  We Trinity Women were somewhat envious of the intellectual cool emanating from this Vassar Woman with her Yale Ph.D.  We enjoyed her company and always wanted to rise to her high expectations — we strived to be as learned, as precise, as insightful as she, even if we often fell short of that lofty goal.

My last class with Dr. Kinnaird was in April of my senior year, sitting in the first floor lounge of Kerby Hall with sunlight filtering through the young green leaves of the spring trees outside, music wafting through the room as we sipped some white wine out of dixie cups (yes, times and rules were different then in the early 1970’s!) while discussing the rebuilding of Europe after World War II in her European Intellectual History class.  We had spent the semester studying the devolution of civilization in Germany from WWI to WWII along with the horrors of the Holocaust; we learned about the heroism amid the inhumanity through listening to music composed and played by prisoners at Auschwitz, watching movies like The Grand Illusion and reading the literature that evoked Europe’s slide into moral and political chaos.  I was a Political Science major, but I found her courses essential to my understanding of political movements and revolutions. In recent years, I have thought of that class often as I have observed America’s struggle with demagoguery and rising authoritarianism.  The cycles of history are relentless.

Joining Trinity’s History faculty in 1968, Dr. Kinnaird taught an astonishing range of courses over the years, from Medieval Foundations of Western Civilization, to Renaissance and Reformation, to 17th Century, Enlightenment and French Revolution, Feminist History, and her famous two-course sequence in European Intellectual History.  She was an avid traveler, leading alumnae trips to France and England.  On campus she organized events such as La Belle Epoch and the Medieval Festival.  She was an advisor to hundreds of students through the years, and a constant presence at student events.

One of Dr. Kinnaird’s proudest achievements was securing Trinity’s admission into Phi Beta Kappa in 1971, at that time only the second Catholic women’s college ever admitted to that prestigious honor society.  The photo above shows Dr. Kinnaird in the middle (standing) with President Sr. Margaret Claydon (seated) and other members of the new Epsilon Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at the inaugural PBK ceremony at Trinity.

Never tiring of intellectual engagement and exploration, after her retirement in 1994 Dr. Kinnaird stayed active in many academic endeavors including taking courses at the University of Maryland where she quickly bridged the age gap with traditional students through her charismatic love of learning.

Her husband John was a Professor of English at the University of Maryland.  Two sons, John and Stephen, survive her.  We send them our deepest condolences along with our fondest memories of a wonderful teacher, colleague and friend.

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Tribute to Dr. Joan Kinnaird and her “Abundant Capacity for Human Kindness”

November 9, 2023

Dr. David Gariff of the National Gallery of Art gave me permission to publish his beautiful tribute to Dr. Joan Kinnaird — we will have a memorial service in Dr. Kinnaird’s memory on Saturday, November 11 at 2 pm in the chapel on the 2nd floor of Main Hall.


It is difficult to describe the sadness and sense of loss I felt upon hearing of the death of Professor Joan Kinnaird. I have never encountered a kinder, more sensitive, empathetic, knowledgeable, and modest person.

Joan possessed positive and unique qualities as a teacher, scholar, humanist, and woman of faith. She taught by example in all matters, reflecting a quiet and selfless devotion to her students, colleagues, friends, and family.

I first met Joan in the fall of 1983 when I arrived at Trinity College as a part-time lecturer in art history. The chair of the Art Department was Liliana Gramberg, an accomplished artist, and a remarkable teacher. I was soon ushered into the special educational environment that existed at Trinity between and among the faculty and students devoted to the study of the liberal arts. My time at Trinity would become one of the most important and formative periods in my personal and professional life, in no small measure due to my friendship with Joan Kinnaird.

Because of the many ties between the female faculty members at Trinity and the University of Maryland where I was a Ph.D. candidate, I soon realized that there were several husband-and-wife teams whose careers had unfolded at each school. This fact was in part how I came to meet many of the gifted professors at Trinity including Liliana Gramberg, Eda Levitine, Anna Lynch, and Joan Kinnaird. Added to that list as a special friend and colleague was also Sister Maura Prendergast, SND. All these faculty women were beloved and respected by Trinity students and teachers alike.

I can still recall my first encounter with Joan Kinnaird. I was teaching an art history class in the evenings in the lower classroom of the library. As the class ended, I gathered my notes and rolled the cart with the slide projectors out into the hall. A distinguished looking woman approached me and introduced herself as Joan Kinnaird, a Trinity professor of History. She was soft-spoken and elegant. We exchanged pleasantries when Joan got to the heart of the matter. She had heard of my arrival and knew something of my background. She was interested in knowing if I would consider teaching in a summer study program in Italy that she had organized for Trinity students. It was to be a team-taught program in the study of Italian Renaissance history, literature, and art history. I expressed my interest and Joan invited me to her house for lunch to meet the third professor she had spoken to about teaching the literature component, Sister Maura Prendergast. Thus began my forty-year friendships with these two great ladies of Trinity College.

After my time at Trinity, and throughout my subsequent academic career at various universities, I came to rely upon Joan’s career advice, moral support, and warm encouragement and comfort. She guided me through many of the pitfalls and setbacks of an academic life and career. It was an unexpected gift when I returned to D.C. to accept a position at the National Gallery of Art and we were once again able to spend time together.

Joan Kinnaird’s life and career are a moving testament to her deeply felt Catholic faith, her commitment to teaching, knowledge, and learning, and her abundant capacity for human kindness. A more extraordinary woman I have never known.

David Gariff
National Gallery of Art

Read:  Dr. Kinnaird’s Obituary


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October 17, 2023

We conducted the October 2023 Trinity Community Survey in the week of October 9.  We asked students, faculty and staff to tell us how the fall semester is going — same as they expected, better than expected, or worse than expected.

  • 92% of students replied that the semester is going same or better than expected, with just 8% indicating worse than expected.
  • 96% of faculty replied that the semester is going same or better, with only 4% indicating worse than expected.
  • 98% of staff replied same or better, with only 2% reporting worse than expected.

On the whole, these are very positive responses, higher than the same question posed in November 2022.

Student Comments:

“My professors have been very willing and understanding about my situation as well as the financial aid office.” (CAS)

“I’m excited about all the knowledge I have consumed people that I met and I love myprofessors. I’m glad I picked Trinity.” (CAS)

“I’ve been with Trinity for almost 3 years and I’m going to graduate in January. This fall school has been great but sometimes they are professors make it hard on us but so far it’s good to be a student at Trinity.” (CAS)

‘I absolutely love Trinity I’ve been here since 2020 and through all my hardships Trinity has been with me every step of the way.” (CAS)

“Managerial: Business Law should not be an 8 week class. There is a lot of information to interpret. I felt the professor move nicely through the for the amount of time we had but I know he/she wished she had more time to dig deeper into the course.” (BGS)

“I am an older adult who returned to school last semester. it was difficult adjusting. I say better than expected because I feel that I am more prepared. I am not satisfied with some of my grades but I do feel that I have a good plan to be successful in my courses.” (NHP)

“I imagined evening classes in-person to be dreadful, However, all of my professors have provided joyous and upbeat environments deliveries and environments thus far.” (SPS)

“The work load is more manageable then the syllabus indicated. The professors were able to adjust their expectations to a work load that was realistic and useful to the students.Professors give a lot of busy work to SPS students and I personally feel that it is counterproductive and students feel over whelmed: causing them drop or withdraw from classes.” (SPS)

Faculty and Staff Comments:

“Student attendance has not been as consistent as in semesters past. Other than that,participation has been good in my classes and students have commented in class that theyare applying what they are learning to current teaching assignments.” (PGS)

“Students appear to be more anxious. Probably associated with the state of the city.” (NHP)

“I expected to have a wonderful semester, and this semester, like the others before, have livedup to that expectation. The students are hard working, intellectually curious, respectful andcompassionate, and they make it a joy to come to campus every day.” (CAS)

“Coming from teaching at the University of Maryland, I find that students at Trinity are more engaged and work harder. I also find that my co-workers at the library are a breath of fresh air. So kind, and inviting.” (CAS)

“As a newer employee getting my bearings I was anticipating the fall semester being a bit overwhelming but it has been going much smoother than I anticipated.” (Staff)

“I am really enjoying working, learning, and growing in my position. I feel valued as a member of the Trinity community.” (Staff)

“I still feel overwhelmed at times by the amount of work. The wellness days are helpful, but thisis the time of the semester when things feel busy for me.” (Staff)

Rating Experience with Campus Services

We asked the community to rate a list of campus services.  Below is the aggregate response from students:

Compare the responses from faculty:

And responses from staff:

The comments for each group were voluminous, and as we analyzed the numerical results above and the comments, these issues are clear and topics we will address in the weeks ahead:

  • In general, Library Services, Technology Services and general support from faculty and staff get high marks; getting all services to get high marks is a goal!
  • Dining Services is the area receiving the most low scores and critical comments; we will review the scores and comments with our partners at Metz and work on ways to improve dining satisfaction.
  • Student Activities and Residence Life received many comments, and these are areas where our staff is focusing on ways to improve the experience for students.
  • Campus Shuttle schedule and the tracker received a lot of comments; we are working on getting the tracker up and running and the shuttle on a predictable schedule.
  • Facilities modernization continues to be a topic of concern; we are continuing our fund raising program for Alumnae Hall renovation and looking at other ways to address some of the facilities issues.
  • Communication is a theme through the comments; some members of the community are unaware of events, processes, services that are available.  I have asked our senior staff to evaluate the comments and determine ways to improve communications, reliability and responsiveness for all offices and services.

Community Interest in Artificial Intelligence

In anticipation of the Symposium on Artificial Intelligence on October 27, we asked the community to tell us about their knowledge, concerns, practices with AI.  The answers are quite interesting!

  • The majority of respondents are eager to learn more about AI.
  • Faculty (45%) indicate they believe that AI will make their lives easier, but only 21% of students think so.
  • A larger share of faculty (55%) fear negative consequences of AI, as do 49% of staff and 43% of students.
  • 5% of students admit using ChatGPT to write a paper, compared to 2% of faculty and 7% of staff.
  • 22% of staff already use AI tools at work, compared to 19% of faculty but just 5% of students
  • NO faculty think we should “ban ChatGPT” while 6% of students want the ban.
  • 74% of faculty do want an AI policy that allows them some discretion, compared to 31% for students.

Note that Trinity’s faculty has developed an AI policy statement that is currently going through committee review and we hope to have it adopted very soon.

Q5: What else would you like to tell us about your ideas for Trinity?

This question asked for response statements and we received a lot!  Below are excerpts that reflect general sentiments and in a few places I also provide answers or follow-up notes:

Student comments:

“Better refund on books or prices for books for students who pay out of pocket.” (CAS)

  • We continue to monitor our online bookstore provider’s prices and practices; we will share the student sentiment with the bookstore provider.

“Bring back the in-person bookstore.” (NHP)

  • Unfortunately, there is no bookstore provider willing to provide an in-person shopping experience today at Trinity or similar smaller institutions.  Even larger schools are having challenges keeping their campus bookstores since the big providers (e.g., Barnes & Noble) require a certain profit margin to sustain in-person stores.  The pandemic made the situation much worse for many universities as more classes moved online and everyone migrated to online shopping.  The post-pandemic revenue volume for campus bookstores declined considerably.  We are looking into the possibility of finding a small vendor to operate a store with sundries, logo products, snacks, but so far have not identified such a vendor.

“I would like to see study rooms at Trinity. I have gone to other campuses and they offer nice private study rooms and i think many students would benefit from them because it gives a peaceful and private environment to study.” (CAS)

  • Several students made similar comments and given this level of interest, we will develop plans to create several study rooms.

“I think we should bring back the balls or dances so students can have more fun. also I think we should make more commuters lounges and to make the ones we have prettier. 🙂 Also we should find more ways to inform students of events that are happening on campus.”  (CAS)

“An online tour of the nursing floor (ex. Simulation classrooms, students in the simulation class as if in a hospital setting, student interview on how they are liking the program and a piece of advice to aspiring students).” (CAS)

“Trinity should consider in having a daycare, the majority of students are women, and some of us have kids, and it would be so much easier to have a daycare here that will make us study with tranquility and being secure that we have were to leave our baby.” (CAS)

  • We know that child care is a huge issue for many Trinity students in all programs.  About 25% of all students have children, including about 20% of CAS students.  Unfortunately, the expense associated with providing child care in D.C. makes it impossible for Trinity to be a direct provider of child care.  However, we are working to develop spaces and policies that can be more “family friendly” including the lovely new Family Library space in the basement of the library.  We work closely with Generation Hope, the organization that has pioneered helping colleges to support students who are parents.  Trinity is one of just 13 colleges nationally to have received the Generation Hope Family Seal certifying our fulfillment of the “Family U” program requirements.

“Keep strengthening the online experience for the customer. Since attending in 2019- the school has made tremendous strides with the online experience.” (BGS)

“Get SPS more involved! Create a platform where the students can have their voices heard.Create a buddy system where these students can meet others and serve as accountability partners. Trinity is more than CAS. SPS is comprised of strong leaders that would serve the campus well. Allow them to have a Student Government as well.”

  • We’d love to have more programming and engagement with our SPS students!  And yes, SPS should have a student government!  Dean Tom Mostowy and his team will reach out to SPS students to discuss the best ways to do this.

“We need better security service when it comes to anyone getting in campus. It’s not a safe situation because anyone can get on and off campus with no problem which makes it unsafe. Parking needs a lot of help. Trinity is a growing school and many people commute but there’s not enough parking spaces to accommodate us all in both parking lots.” (NHP)

  • We see a number of comments in the survey about parking and security.  Regarding security:  Trinity’s campus is not generally open to the public, persons coming onto campus must show IDs and register their cars.  We ask everyone’s cooperation with showing IDs.  In addition to the security personnel we have an extensive system of cameras that are monitored 24/7.  We are always evaluating ways to improve campus safety and welcome suggestions.   Concerning parking:  our studies show that we have ample parking on campus but, quite often, commuters do not want to go to the parking lots that are farther away — those who park in Cuvilly have the option to catch the campus shuttle as it loops around campus.

Faculty and Staff Comments:

“I wonder if we might invite young women from Afghanistan to come here to study, seeing how their educational aspirations are being stifled in their homeland. I am so proud to work at Trinity with our current students and faculty.”

  • Would love to do this but we need to find sponsors to support tuition and living expenses.  Ideas?

“Continue working in communicating with students and staff since not knowing leads to speculation and eventually to misinformation. Campus Conversations is a good tool and I also like Trinity Times as they provide information about campus life. I know that it’s easy and cost effective to have access it online; I think that it would be a good idea to have it in print and place it in some areas as there’s so much info online that it’s challenging to keep up with it.”

  • Agree, Trinity Times is great, and so many thanks to Chaz Muth and the student journalists!  Print version of Trinity Times would be very challenging right now — not just the cost of printing but also the labor required to produce a print version.  Perhaps this is something we can explore in the future. 

“In addition to advisors, who are of course available to help students with enrollment and procedural problems that may arise, I would like to see each incoming student with a mentor,who would initiate and schedule regular contact with the student to help keep them on target with assignments (and details of same, help academically, etc.) and act on anything to assure progress and regularly monitor it, helping when necessary.”


Thanks to all for your participation!  And join us for the Campus Conversations on Thursday, October 19 at 4 pm on zoom where we will discuss these results.



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