Michael Portacci M‘88 and Patrick Shay ’03, M‘05 first came to Trinity decades apart, but these two HCAD alumni have more in common than you’d think. Portacci, who received the Duce Award in 2020, first toured the campus when he was 12 while accompanying his brother, who was a prospective student. Growing up in Galveston, Portacci had spent his summers helping his father who had a shrimp boat. Shay, who was awarded the Momentum Award from the HCAD Alumni Association in 2020, recalls visiting his older sister at Trinity while he was in high school. In the end, both Portacci and Shay made their way to Trinity, where the connections they made have certainly proved to be influential and long-lasting in their careers.
And they weren’t the only connections made at Trinity. For Shay, Trinity is definitely a family affair. He and his brother both met their spouses there, and his sister and cousin also attended Trinity. And, of course, Shay has come back to Trinity to teach in his former department.
What is it about Trinity that brings so many of us back? For both Portacci and Shay, it was the human touch from faculty and staff who took the time to get to know their students and follow up with them not only when they were students, but also once they were out in the real world. Portacci noted that two of his previous bosses had been fellow Trinity alumni who had also won the Duce Award. And for Shay, his continuing relationship with faculty after graduation led him back to that department as a professor.
For the present, Portacci is contemplating the possibility of retiring permanently or just taking a break after 30 years of work. He is surrounded by his family in Tennessee and weathering the pandemic while hoping to be able to visit relatives in Italy sometime in the next year.
Shay, meanwhile, is working hard trying to teach under the current conditions and keep up with his young family. He finds comfort in a cup of tea (supporting his cousin’s business, Happy Mug Coffee) and is looking forward to being able to teach in person again soon.
Portacci and Shay’s accomplishments speak well for them and for their education, but their friendliness and their concentration on the human and intangible parts of their education speak well for the personal and individual attention that Trinity students have gotten over decades. This attention gives the red bricks their magnetic qualities that keep so many of us coming back and attract so many talented and bright students every year.
Photo: Patrick Shay '03, M'05 is on the left; Michael Portacci M'88 is on the right.