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Trinity University (Texas)

Trinity University is a private, independent, primarily undergraduate, liberal arts college in San Antonio, Texas. Founded in 1869, its campus is located in the Monte Vista Historic District and adjacent to Brackenridge Park. The student body consists of over 2,400 undergraduate and 200 graduate students, and awarded 649 degrees in 2007-2008. The university employed 243 full-time faculty and 83 part-time or adjunct faculty members in 2009. Trinity offers 41 majors and 55 minors among 6 degree programs.[1] Trinity has an endowment of nearly $1 billion.

Trinity is a member of the Annapolis Group, comprised of the leading national independent liberal arts colleges with similar interests and concerns focused on the values of liberal arts education that inform their missions. Trinity also belongs to the Associated Colleges of the South.



Former Trinity Campus in Waxahachie, TX

Trinity was founded in 1869 by Cumberland Presbyterians in Tehuacana, Texas. The school was formed from the remnants of three small Cumberland Presbyterian colleges that had failed during the American Civil War. Feeling that the school needed the support of a larger community, the university moved in 1902 to Waxahachie, Texas. In 1906, the university, along with many Cumberland Presbyterian churches, affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The Stock Market Crash of 1929, however, severely hindered the University's growth. Enrollment declined sharply, indebtedness and faculty attrition mounted, and trustees began using endowment funds to maintain daily operations. Consequently, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed Trinity's accreditation status on probation in 1936, jeopardizing its future. Once again, leaders began to consider relocation to a larger community to improve its survivability.

In 1942, the Methodist-affiliated University of San Antonio was failing. San Antonio community leaders who wished to maintain a Protestant-related college in the city approached Trinity with a relocation offer. The university left Waxahachie and took over the campus and alumni of the University of San Antonio. (The old Waxahachie campus is currently home to Southwestern Assemblies of God University). For the next decade the Woodlawn campus, on the city's near West side, was Trinity's home while it developed a permanent home. Lacking adequate facilities, the University functioned by using military barracks and Quonset huts to house students and to provide library and classroom space.[2]

In 1945, the school acquired a former limestone quarry for a new campus. Texas architect O'Neil Ford was hired to design a master plan and many of the buildings. Construction began in 1950, and the current campus opened in 1952.

When it moved, the campus was largely undeveloped (one classroom building, one dorm, and a nearly-empty library were the only completed buildings).[3] Yet, under the leadership of Dr. James W. Laurie, the university s 14th president, Trinity took advantage of its new location in a rapidly growing major urban center to grow in academic stature. Dr. Laurie was responsible for drastically increasing Trinity s endowment, largely funded by the James A. and Leta M. Chapman Charitable Trust of Tulsa, Oklahoma.[4][5] The stronger endowment allowed Trinity to construct a new, modern campus in its University on the Hill location and to increase the quality and range of its faculty while maintaining an extremely high faculty to student ratio. This in turn helped Trinity to become more selective in student recruitment. In 1969 Trinity entered into a covenant agreement with the regional synod of the Presbyterian Church that affirmed historical connections, but transformed Trinity into a private, independent University with a self-perpetuating board of trustees.

Trinity's growth continued under Ronald Calgaard, who followed Laurie's successor, Duncan Wimpress. Under Dr. Calgaard, the university implemented a number of changes to raise its profile. For example, Trinity transformed into a residential undergraduate school, requiring all freshmen to live on campus and cutting the number of master's programs offered from more than twenty to four. As well, Trinity decreased its student population from about 3,300 to 3,000 (and eventually to 2,700), increased merit scholarships, increased the focus on national student recruitment, and began scheduling a strong series of speakers and cultural events open to the public.[6]

Calgaard's successor, John R. Brazil, focused on replacing outdated campus buildings and improving the school's financial resources. The "Campaign for Trinity University," which launched in September 2005, sought to raise US $200 million for a variety of purposes. At its conclusion on September 25, 2009, the Campaign raised US $205.9 million, surpassing the original goal.[7] On January 23, 2009 the university announced that Dr. Brazil would retire as Trinity's President in January 2010. That same day the Board of Trustees awarded him Trinity's Distinguished Service Award, Trinity's most prestigious honor.[8] Dr. Dennis Ahlburg assumed the presidency in January 2010.[9]


Trinity overlooks downtown San Antonio, adjacent to the Monte Vista Historic District and just south of the Olmos Park and Alamo Heights neighborhoods. The Skyline Campus, the university's fourth location, is noted for its distinctive red brick architecture and well-maintained grounds, modeled after an Italian village by late architect O'Neil Ford.

The campus is situated on a former limestone quarry, which creates a natural division between the upper and lower campus connected by stairways. The upper campus is the focus of academic life, while the lower campus, which sits in the basin, is residential. Trinity's residential college structure offers dorms situated near the dining and athletic facilities, creating a true community feel. Trinity is often cited on lists as a school with the nicest dorms. All halls are coed by suite, offer maid service, and are located within a 10-15 minute walk to classes and the library. The suite style dorms feature two double rooms, which share an adjoining bathroom. Despite the residential setting of its campus, Trinity is only five minutes away from the historic downtown of San Antonio, the seventh-largest city in the United States.


The environmental movement at Trinity is known as Red Bricks, Green Campus. Trinity is a member of the Presidents' Climate Commitment and is actively working towards carbon neutrality. Trinity was ranked 5th in the RecycleMania Challenge. Students pushed for fair trade options, and now all coffee sold at the university is certified fair trade. In 2009, Trinity University scored a C- on the College Sustainability Report Card, also known as the Green Report Card.[10][11]

Miller Residence Hall,[12] home to first-year students at Trinity University, was renovated and updated in 2010, earning gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED ) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council in the process. In addition, Calvert Hall and the Thomas-Lightner complex, and The Center for the Sciences and Innovation,[13] which is under construction have been registered with the Green Building Council s LEED program and are awaiting certification.[14]

Notable buildings and structures

  • The tall Murchison Tower is the most dominant landmark on the campus, designed, as many other buildings on campus, by O'Neil Ford, who also designed San Antonio Landmark the Tower of the Americas a few years later based on this design. It was previously the highest point in San Antonio. The tower is now lit at night (excepting evenings when the lighting interferes with on-campus astronomical observances), a tradition begun on September 22, 2002 to commemorate Trinity's 60th anniversary in San Antonio.
  • In 2006, the Ruth Taylor Fine Arts Center, consisting of the Jim and Janet Dicke Art Building, the Campbell and Eloise Smith Music Building, and the Ruth Taylor Recital Hall was substantially renovated under the guidance of Kell Mu oz Architects, providing state-of-the-art facilities and 20,000 additional square feet of space. The building, with its blending of elegant form and function, subsequently won a merit award for design from the City of San Antonio in 2008.[19]
  • The Margarite B. Parker Chapel seats six hundred and is known for its large Hofmann-Ballard pipe organ, the largest pipe organ in South Texas.[20] comprising 5 divisions, 102 stops, 112 ranks, and over 6000 pipes. A state-of-the art four-manual console was installed in Summer 2007, with the aid of the University's Calvert Trust Fund[21]. Non-denominational services are led by the campus chaplain Sunday evenings.
  • The newly constructed Northrup Hall, finished in 2004 and designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, is used for administrative and faculty offices and classrooms.
  • In May 2010, Trinity broke ground on the $127 million Center for the Sciences and Innovation (CSI[22], which will modernize and combine the science facilities. The new science and engineering center will offer outstanding research and classroom space to promote a truly interdisciplinary approach to scientific research and science education. Construction recently hit a milestone as the second phase of three has reached completion.
  • Sixteen residence halls - as a residential campus, students are required to live on campus for three years and many stay for their fourth. As a result, Trinity has a variety of residence halls located on lower campus. Halls reserved for first-year students include Beze, Calvert, Herndon, Miller, Winn and Witt. Upperclassmen halls include Isabel, Lightner, Murchison, Myrtle, North, Prassel, Thomas, South, and Susanna. One residence hall, McLean, houses both first-year and upperclass students.
  • The Coates University Center houses an information desk, dining areas, post office, bookstore, bar, meeting rooms, offices and a number of student organizations.
  • "Conversation with Magic Stones" (or, more commonly, simply "Magic Stones"), a series of metal sculptures created by Dame Barbara Hepworth.

Academics & Rankings

As defined by the Carnegie Foundation's classification, Trinity University is a small, highly residential university with a majority of enrollments coming from undergraduate students. The full-time, four-year undergraduate program is classified as "more selective, lower transfer-in" and has an arts and sciences focus with some graduate student coexistence.[23] Trinity is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Full-time undergraduate tuition is $31,176 for 2011-2012.[24]


Trinity offers 41 majors and 55 minors in the traditional liberal arts and sciences, fine arts, and engineering, and graduate programs in accounting, teaching, school psychology, school administration, and health care administration.[25] Trinity stresses close interaction between students and faculty members across all disciplines, with a 9:1 student/faculty ratio. The full-time faculty numbers 228, 98% of whom hold a Ph.D. or other terminal degree in their field. About 52% of the student body has studied abroad, in over 35 countries.

All undergraduates must demonstrate proficiency across a broad range of academic disciplines, regardless of major. At its core, the Common Curriculum[26] provides the liberal arts foundation for all undergraduate degrees awarded by Trinity. This establishes for each Trinity student a basis for understanding the varied domains of human knowledge, which Trinity broadly defines as:

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Arts and Literature
  • Human Social Interaction
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Natural Science and Technology

Learning at Trinity culminates with a senior experience, which offers Trinity students various ways to reflect on and unify their undergraduate years while moving toward their post-baccalaureate goals. Students fulfill this component with one of the following options:

  • Senior Thesis
  • Major Capstone course
  • Senior Synthesis (paper or project)
  • Senior Interdisciplinary Seminar

Academic Honor Code In response to the national rise in cheating at high schools, universities, and corporations, Trinity implemented an Academic Honor Code in 2004[27] which is signed by all freshman at new student orientation. This unique aspect of a Trinity education helps reinforce the importance of maintaining academic integrity in the output of scholarly work. In addition to signing the code, each assignment must include the phrase, On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized assistance on this work.

40 percent of students attend graduate school immediately after earning their bachelor's, and 65 percent of all students attend within five years of graduation.[28] Trinity alumni enroll in law, business, medicine, education, and the humanities in robust numbers. Recent alumni have enrolled in graduate programs at Duke, Princeton, Harvard, The London School of Economics, Baylor, UCLA, Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Texas.

An analysis by the Office of Institutional Research indicated that Trinity has made considerable progress in the number of graduates going on to earn doctoral degrees. Of students earning bachelor s between 1982-86, 2.9% of went on to earn doctorate's; of those earning bachelor's between 1997-2001, 8.5% had. Trinity improved its ranking in this category from 328th to 38th among other colleges and universities.[29]


Trinity has achieved numerous commendations as a result of its focus on academics and the resources it provides for its students and faculty. For example:

  • Trinity was recognized by the Princeton Review in its 2012 edition of The Best 376 Colleges, its annual college guide, and has featured in the guide since its first publication.
  • In its "America's Best Colleges" ranking, U.S. News and World Report placed Trinity first among universities granting primarily bachelor's and select master's degrees in the western United States for 20th consecutive year.
  • Trinity was named a 2011-12 Best Value Private College by Kiplinger's Personal Finance at #27[30]. Kiplinger ranked 200 private universities and liberal arts colleges that combine outstanding education with economic value. Trinity performed well because of a high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, good student-to-faculty ratio, excellent on-campus resources, and overall great value.
  • Forbes 2011 rankings, prepared by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity[31] ranks Trinity 116th nationally.[32] Forbes rankings evaluates a college investment from a consumer perspective, focusing on the quality of teaching, career prospects, graduation rates, and levels of debt at graduation.

Student body

Trinity Undergraduate Demographics[33]
African American 2.8
Asian 7.2
Hispanic 13.0
White 62.5
International 7.3
Multiracial 2.6

Trinity's 2,693 students come from 48 states plus 58 countries. Students of color account for 23 percent of undergraduate and graduate students. For the class of 2015 admissions received over 4,507 applicants, a 5 percent increase over last year. The acceptance rate in 2011 was 61%.[34]

60 percent of the undergraduate student body is from Texas; the other top states in population are California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Oregon, Kansas, and Illinois.

The average high school GPA is 3.52, and 50 percent of all students ranked in the top ten percent of the their high school classes. Trinity students have the second highest standardized test scores for Texas schools, behind Rice University.[35] The middle 50 percent of scores are 590-700 for SAT Critical Reading and 610-690 for SAT Math; for the ACT 27-31.

Approximately 83 percent of the student body receives financial aid.[36]

Student life

Student organizations

Trinity hosts several local social fraternities and sororities. Fraternities include Iota Chi Rho, Bengal Lancers, Chi Delta Tau, Kappa Kappa Delta, Omega Phi, and Phi Sigma Chi. Sororities include Alpha Chi Lambda, Chi Beta Epsilon, Gamma Chi Delta, Phi Delta Kappa, Sigma Theta Tau, SPURS, and Zeta Chi.

One fraternity, Alpha Theta Chi, dissolved their charter and left the university voluntarily due to judicial violations during the 2007-2008 academic year. Two other fraternities, the Triniteers and Alpha Delta Epsilon had charters revoked for hazing violations, and do not exist officially.

In the fall of 2008, Trinity's first colony of a national Greek organization, Pi Kappa Alpha, often shortened to Pikes, was officially recognized by the school. Pi Kappa Alpha would receive its charter in late 2009, making it the only national Greek fraternity or sorority on campus, and, with its 81 members, the largest. The move led to controversy amongst the local greek organizations, who did not support the inclusion of a national fraternity. Subsequently, a shake-up in the administration occurred following the new charter, and individuals were removed.[37]

Additionally, the school hosts chapters of several academic honor organizations, including Blue Key, Mortar Board, and Phi Beta Kappa. The school also has a couple of national co-ed organizations, Alpha Kappa Psi (Nu Pi Chapter), a national co-ed business fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega (Delta Pi Chapter) a national co-ed service fraternity, and Phi Alpha Delta, an international co-ed Pre-Law fraternity.

Service opportunities can be found through the largest single student organization, the Trinity University Voluntary Action Community, or TUVAC, which provides opportunities for students to give back to the surrounding community. The national co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega is also represented. Student government takes the form of the Association of Student Representatives which oversees the Trinity University Honor Council, TIGER Council, the Trinity Multicultural Network, and a Student Conduct Board. The Trinity University Student Ambassadors maintain Trinity traditions and encourage philanthropic activity among students, alumni, and friends of the University.

Trinity's radio station, KRTU 91.7 FM,[38] broadcasts jazz during the day, and mostly indie rock. TigerTV serves as the campus TV station. In addition to movies, the channel broadcasts three main shows: Studio 21, Newswave, and the Not So Late Show. The Not So Late Show also includes a show titled The Floor. The Trinitonian[39] has been the weekly campus newspaper for 103 years, and has a print circulation of 2,500.


The Trinity Tigers is the nickname for the sports teams of Trinity University. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.[40] The school mascot is LeeRoy, a Bengal Tiger. In the 1950s, LeeRoy was an actual tiger who was brought to sporting events,[41] but today LeeRoy is portrayed by a student wearing a tiger suit.

Trinity has historically had a strong tennis program. Under the tutelage of Coach Clarence Mabry, Trinity player Chuck McKinley won the Wimbledon singles championship in 1963 and was rated the number one men's singles player in the world.[42] With partner Dennis Ralston, McKinley won the US men's doubles championship in 1961, 1963, and 1964. McKinley and Ralston also played all of the matches while winning the Davis Cup for the US in 1963. All of these accomplishments occurred while McKinley was a Trinity undergraduate. In 1972 Trinity won the NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championship.[43] The tiger captain that year, Dick Stockton, won the NCAA men's singles championship. The women's team won the USTA collegiate national championship in 1968, 1969, 1973, 1975, and 1976.[44] As recently as 2000, the men's and women's programs each won NCAA Division III national championships.[45][46] Trinity also has won national championships in women's basketball (Spring 2003) and men's soccer (Fall 2003). Club sports include men's and women's Tennis, Lacrosse, Water Polo, Fencing, and Trap and Skeet.[40]

In the 2007 Trinity v. Millsaps football game on October 27, 2007, trailing by two points with two seconds left, the Tigers used 15 laterals covering 60 yards for a touchdown to give Trinity the win as time expired.[47][48][49][50][51] The unlikely play was named the top sports moment of the year by Time Magazine[52] as well as the "Game Changing Performance of the Year" by Pontiac[53][54].

Men's football team, 1915
Men's football team, 1915

Notable alumni

Arts & Entertainment



Government & Military


Notable faculty

Trinity University Press

Trinity University Press is affiliated with Trinity University and publishes about ten titles a year. TU Press has three main areas of focus including books on local culture, landscape, and writers on writing and about a specific city. The books on local culture concentrates on Texas, Mexico, and the Southwest and are published to increase the knowledge of our surrounding heritage and history. The books on landscape, nature, and the environment analyze our rich natural history of our environment and how humans affect that history and culture. The books about writers on writing and about a specific city are often anthologies of international literature as well as collections of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction about a specific location.


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