Recently, my boyfriend and I called an Uber that arrived at Prassel Hall’s Shook side almost immediately. The driver, a talkative middle-aged man, struck up a conversation with us at once. It turns out that he got to Prassel so quickly because he’s the next door neighbor of the dorm. The cute little house across Ledge Lane — that’s him. The conversation naturally shifted to the topic of Trinity; I guess having a campus loom over your house makes it hard to focus on anything else.
In the ‘80s, our Uber driver told us, when Prassel was being planned, he and his wife went to the president of Trinity at the time, Ron Calgaard, to ask if they would move Prassel further away from their house. His wife was eight months pregnant, huge, and as they sat down Calgaard opened a box of cigars and started to smoke one, exhaling the thick smoke in the closed room. That little display showed them who was going to win. Needless to say, he has no respect for that man. “Trinity has a lot of money, so they get what they want, you know,” he finished.
I’m very fascinated by Trinity history, and I’ve looked through the library’s digital historical images archive to learn more about this campus and the others that came before it. Flipping through the files, I was filled only with a sense of pride in the people who made it possible for me to be where I am now, surrounded by these red brick buildings. Hearing the Uber driver’s story confused me at first. I’ve read about Ron Calgaard. He’s the president who served for 20 years and who made this school what it is — selective, nationally ranked and award-winning. But, as with all stories, there’s another side to this success, one that’s overshadowed by O’Neil Ford’s inspired architecture.
Though this story of disrespect is anecdotal and brief, it struck me so hard because I’ve always delighted in everything about this campus, from the passionate faculty to the classic, Instagrammable silhouettes of the tower and our view of the city’s skyline. This isn’t ours to passively accept, though. Just being here is a sign of immense privilege. Our parents, friends, teachers and so many more have pushed us to do well enough so we could have our place at this university on a hill. And, yes, our campus’ neighbors have been hurt by our implicit blind pride in expansion and betterment.
What I’m trying to say is this: we need to remember to humble ourselves, which is a challenge for myself as well as the other members of the Trinity community. While we’ve done a wonderful job of advancing ourselves as a university, what’s the point of it all if we don’t share what we have with San Antonio, with Texas, with the United States? Alumni are praised in terms of the fact that they are successful Trinity graduates, not based on how they use their skills to help their new communities. A focus on Trinity has been achieved: now it’s time to let that focus blur, and let what we’ve learned meld into actions off-campus.
New students know that the first version of a potential university we see is the most idealized one. Wherever we go, we’re shown the newest dorms, told about the awards won and lead around the prettiest parts of campus. It’s only when we accept our place at a university that we can realize its flaws and, hopefully, improve upon this beautiful place that’s been built on limestone, history and a narrow focus on achievement.