Faculty-student Bonds
Professors go the extra mile—and beyond—for Trinity students
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Professor and student hug at graduation ceremony outside reception

Trinity’s 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio is more than a number: it’s how the university opens doors for students. The University’s nationally recognized faculty are committed to developing a one-on-one working relationship with each individual they teach. They research, learn, grow, perform, and travel right alongside every Tiger. Because faculty know their students’ strengths, they can also serve as advocates for those students seeking internships, research projects, and career opportunities.

Trinity’s rigorous curriculum can be challenging for any student, let alone one who wants to split time between school and NASA. Such was the case for Daniel Henkes ’20, an engineering science major from San Antonio, Texas who balanced his academic journey at Trinity with a varsity cross country career and a full stint in NASA’s prestigious Pathways Intern Employment Program. 

For many students, a demanding schedule like this would double the time it takes to earn their college degrees. But thanks to support from Trinity’s engineering science faculty, it’s only taken Henkes one additional semester.

Jack Leifer, an engineering science professor, serves as Henkes’ academic adviser. Leifer says that with faculty allies in their corner, Trinity students can have the best of both worlds—big school resources and connections, paired with small-school faculty relationships.

“I’ve known Daniel since before he was a first-year because I remembered him from his very first tour of our facility as a high school student,” Leifer says. “And that mattered when we were trying to figure out how Daniel would be able to pull this off. I was able to go to my fellow engineering science faculty and say, ‘I know Daniel. I know his commitment to both his studies and his co-op work at NASA. And I believe, if there’s any student who can navigate this, it’s going to be Daniel.’”

Leifer isn’t the only faculty member going the extra mile for students. In 2018, five Trinity music faculty flew more than 5,600 miles to accompany 40 Trinity choir members who were invited to perform at the prestigious international Classical Musical Festival in Austria.  

At the Festival, the group joined elite musicians from more than 25 nations to perform classics such as Haydn’s “The Creation” and Beethoven’s “Mass in C Major.”  At each of the festival’s rehearsals and performances, professors performed right along with their students. College students faculty to be experts in their field. But having faculty who are willing to provide their expertise in the field is what sets Trinity apart.

For music professor David Heller, now in his 32nd year at Trinity, the Austria trip is a beautiful example of how Trinity harmonizes with the outside world.

“Sitting at the harpsichord during rehearsal, hearing everything going on around me—all of these musicians from 26 countries—for our students to be part of that musical expression, creating a choral work, it made my heart swell,” Heller says.

This sort of passion spills into every corner of campus, including the geosciences. 

Scott Tinker ’82, a filmmaker, energy activist and speaker, fondly remembers his days studying geology and business at Trinity. Tinker, who is now the state geologist of Texas and University of Texas at Austin endowed geosciences professor, created his first film about energy, “Switch,” in 2012. But Tinker might never have discovered this passion if not for the late geosciences professor Ed Roy. Tinker only became a geology major after meeting Roy under Trinity’s iconic Murchison Tower at a first-year orientation party.

“I came to school to do pre-law and business, but Dr. Roy caught me out on the lawn and talked me into taking just one geology class—and before I knew it, we were out in the field, and I was a major,” Tinker says. “That’s the type of moment you can have at Trinity—and it was a moment that changed my life.”

Chemistry professor emerita Nancy Mills works with students in her lab

Fellow geosciences major Harry “Bud” Holzman ’74, can also attest to the passion of Trinity faculty. Holzman, a Vietnam helicopter and fighter pilot became a Trinity geology major and then a U.S. Army counterintelligence chief analyst in the Second Gulf War. As a U.S. Army counterintelligence analyst in Iraq in 2004, he also was charged with helping the U.S. and Iraqi governments administer justice to members of Hussein’s regime and actually signed Hussein’s official recommendation for the arrest warrant.  Holzman used his geosciences expertise to restore Iraq’s damaged oilfields to working status, helping bring power back to millions of Iraqis. Before that, he enjoyed a 25-year geological career at Geomap, all after surviving tests from Trinity’s demanding geology department, which he compares with the perils of flying aircraft in the Vietnam war.

“Let me tell you,” Holzman says of his days at Trinity, “Vietnam was nothing compared to taking tests under (the late geology professor) Dr. Donald McGannon. I remember a 12-hour ‘Optical Mineralogy’ final that was harder than any combat mission.” Holzman fondly recalls learning under professors Roy, McGannon, Walter Coppinger, and Robert Freed.

“At Trinity they instill this in you: when you find a problem, they want you to go find answers,” Holzman says. “And whether you’re talking about your aircraft getting shot down, living in 130 degrees, or working 16-hour days for months at a time, you have to show persistence—you never give up.”

Early 1890s photo of faculty and students bonding

 

As early as the 1890s, faculty were serving as mentors and counselors to their students. Pictured here, Professor William Gillespie helped students form a literary society on the Tehuacana campus.

LeeRoy Tiger is Trinity's lovable mascot, spreading #TigerPride wherever he goes.

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