Obviously, topping my reflections is the recent Trinity University Service Awards Ceremony. Last weekâ€™s issue included an excellent â€œCampus Pulseâ€ article by Chloe Pope-Levison which provided detailed information from Denise Covert, assistant director of Human Resources, describing the awards themselves and the longtime commitment of many staff and faculty to this institution.
Since I was, as Chloe put it, â€œthe sole recipient of the 50-year award,â€ I was the first recognized; I listened to the gracious introduction by Vice President Fischer, clutched the gift box handed me by President Ahlburg, and managed to get back to my pew without stumbling.
Because of my advanced age and the fact that I had already taught three (3) courses that day and still had the soothing pleasures of driving I-10 during rush hour traffic ahead of me, most probably assumed that I enjoyed a little nap. Â Well, I didnâ€™t. Â I listened carefully and proudly and applauded sincerely.
Hereâ€™s why: Â spending oneâ€™s entire career at one institution, university or other, is increasingly rare. Â Commitment and loyalty donâ€™t mean what they once meant â€“ neither for employee nor management. Â Change is inevitable â€“ we all know that â€“ but â€œkeeping on, keeping onâ€ even when a situation is imperfect is not the route taken as often today as it once was.
More employees leave for better opportunities or personal reasons; supervisors, concern about rising costs, manage cost-cutting by staff reduction; academic colleagues fail to meet the standards in their discipline and arenâ€™t awarded with promotion or tenure. Â None of this is pretty; however, the impressive â€œtakeawayâ€ from the Service Awards Ceremony is that so very many commit to Trinity and serve this place for decades â€“ many for their entire careers.
Because I didnâ€™t doze off, I especially enjoyed introductions by Vice President Gary Logan, as he not only commented on the means by which recipients from his area of responsibility kept this place running â€“ from their expertise in such areas as carpentry, engineering, landscaping, securing and policing, to financial areas, campus planning and sustainability â€“ but also recounted some of what they do â€œin their leisureâ€ from church leadership to coaching childrenâ€™s teams to corralling all those feral cats.
Most of us are oblivious to the miracles these colleagues work, and, at least on this one occasion, we acknowledge and thank them. Â (By the way, thereâ€™s no rule that says we have to wait until the next ceremony to express our appreciation.)
In spite of the disappointing and disillusioning realization that came to me five decades ago (and is recollected often) Â â€“ Trinity University isnâ€™t Camelot Â – for a remarkably large number of us, being a part of this community inspires loyalty, commitment, pride and gratitude.
Coleen Grissom is a professor in the English department.