FeaturedPulseFormer president Calgaard leaves large legacy behind him

Archive dive: Ron Calgaard in the pages of the Trinitonian and Mirage
Kathleen CreedonApril 17, 202011492 min

On April 10, 2020, president emeritus Ronald K. Calgaard died following a brief illness. He was 82 years old. In an attempt to display his legacy, we dug through the Campus Publications archives.

In the Dec. 1, 1978 issue of the Trinitonian, Ronald K. Calgaard was introduced as Trinity’s new president. The search process for this position took two years, but according to the reporting, Calgaard was quick to accept.

“I am delighted to answer in the affirmative,” was Calgaard’s response to the Board of Trustees’ offer.

When he elaborated on his acceptance of the position, Calgaard said, “We were very much impressed by the people and the opportunities. I saw that there were extra opportunities at Trinity and the possibilities of doing something there that would make a difference.”

Calgaard acted as the university president for two decades, from 1979–1999, a term so lengthy that he has earned the title of longest serving president in the university’s history.

On Calgaard’s inauguration day — February 15, 1980 — then-dean of students Coleen Grissom wrote in to the Trinitonian about the new president:

“I believe Calgaard will lead us in attracting high-quality faculty, staff and students; that he’ll be successful in raising substantial financial support; and that he’ll never let anyone wonder what Trinity’s purpose is.”

Grissom saw in Calgaard “a remarkably incisive intellect, wide-ranging experience in college administration, fiscal expertise, a disgusting energy level, a sometimes disconcerting candor and an intelligent attractive family which shares and supports his commitment to this institution.”

In the 1999 Mirage, the year Calgaard stepped down from the president position, he explained his content with what the next president would do:

“I believe in one president at a time,” Calgaard said.

In the university’s official announcement regarding Calgaard’s passing, it recognizes all of the good work Calgaard did in his time as president:

“Calgaard transformed Trinity into a residential University that greatly improved the sense of community among students, raised the admissions standards, and increased the geographic, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity of the student body. Trinity also aggressively recruited National Merit Scholars, which brought the University wide acclaim in the national media. Under Calgaard’s leadership, Trinity became a national leader in Division III intercollegiate athletics.”

But even beyond his tenure, Calgaard was present at Trinity events.

“The Calgaards continued to support the University financially and through their participation at campus events. Trinity’s Board of Trustees celebrated Calgaard’s legacy through an unrestricted scholarship and a professorship in his honor, as well as a rededication of the new Ron and Genie Calgaard Performance Gymnasium,” the university’s announcement reads.

According to the university, Calgaard is survived by his wife of 60 years, Genie; daughter Lisa Sands and her husband Peter and their son Eliot; son Kent Calgaard and his wife Francie and their daughter Kathleen.

A celebration of his life will take place at the Margaret B. Parker Chapel. A date has not yet been determined.


Kathleen Creedon

| Class of 2020 | Major: English

One comment

  • Ron Boerger ('81)

    April 17, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Dr. Caalgard’s passing deserves a more in-depth perspective than this story, welcome as it is, presents. Under his immediate predecessors, Trinity had drifted and was known primarily for two things – Division I tennis, and as the “University in the Sun” – yes, that was the school’s calling card. It was somewhere that well-to-do families sent their kids for four years. There were pockets of excellence, certainly – Comp Sci was one, Biology another – but for the most part the school played happily in its little puddle. Dr. Caalgard instituted numerous significant and difficult changes that put the school on upward course for what it is today; happily, President Anderson, another former KU administrator, has taken up that torch with panache.

    I recommend this Rivard Report article, also written today, for those who would like additional information about the changes Caalgard wrought, not only at Trinity but in the surrounding community. https://therivardreport.com/lamenting-no-public-farewell-for-trinitys-president-calgaard/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.