Stretching along the core of Trinity University’s campus, like the spine of a well-read book, is a cluster of three buildings called the Chapman-Dicke-Halsell complex.
Connected by more than just shaded walkways and bridges—but by a spirit of collaboration and discovery—you can think of this set of structures as Trinity’s academic backbone. For the past decade, Trinity has been investing in expanding and upgrading this complex as a central component of its Campus Master Plan: raising a new structure in Dicke Hall, and renovating existing ones in the Halsell and Chapman centers.
Now, it’s time to recognize the Chapman Center for the special place it holds within the context of this master plan, even among the other buildings on Trinity’s historic campus. A structure that serves about 60% of Trinity’s entire student body, Chapman has hosted six decades of high-level research and study, dating back to 1964. And after undergoing a $33 million renovation over the past year, its re-opening this fall represents one of the final brush strokes in this master plan’s bold re-envisioning of Trinity’s future.
This unveiling will be marked with a celebration worthy of the Chapman Center’s enduring legacy at a ribbon-cutting and dedication, Aug. 25, to which the University is inviting and encouraging supporters to attend.
Because at Trinity, legacy isn’t something tied to the past. Instead, the Chapman Center represents a link between the past, the present, and the future of the University.
The Chapman Center is a link between the enduring and the evolving: it is central to Trinity’s recognition as a National Historic District, while also a structure that’s been remodeled to meet today’s environmental and academic standards.
The Chapman Center is a link between alumni supporters from all means, ways, and time periods: While the original building was first dedicated to a Chapman clan who sent six (!) family members to Trinity across all three of the campuses in our history and established a generous trust for the school, these new updates were funded in the same spirit of philanthropy and passion for Trinity, first and foremost by crucial major gifts, but also by acts of generosity in all sizes.
And it is a link between an impossibly diverse and varied set of minds: decades of students who have lived, studied, and worked together through changing and evolving academic fields, creating bridges between disciplines and innovating in the spirit of Trinity’s enduring commitment to the liberal arts.
Chapman is still the same old book you love: it just got a new chapter.
A Modern Structure
With $33 million of modern physical upgrades on the way for the Chapman Center, it might be easy for students today to forget that the Chapman that opened in fall 1964 was an unprecedented, state-of-the-art facility in its own right.
The building, then known as the Chapman Graduate Center, was the first major building completed as part of Trinity’s Centennial Program, a massive, $50-million undertaking to update and upgrade Trinity’s campus, which was largely built in a series of phases spanning from 1948-1976.
The Chapman Center was meant to serve as Trinity’s first-ever space solely dedicated to graduate studies, and it came with the amenities to match: stacks for a graduate library of more than 200,000 volumes, including a rare books room and art gallery inside a majestic great hall, rich tapestries hanging from the walls, elegant hand-carved doors, and other beautiful features that made the space a prominent meeting place for all sorts of lectures, classes, and seminars.
And, like the rest of Trinity’s campus, the Chapman Center was constructed in the iconic, mid-century modernist style of architect O’Neil Ford, who drew on campus’s unique topography to fashion red brick buildings connected by walkways and lush native landscaping.
Ford wasn’t afraid of the challenges posed by building in a former rock quarry—rather, he embraced the chance to work with his environment.
Trinity’s new upgrades honor this legacy in ways that stretch beyond the physical appearance of the structure. Starting construction in 2022, the Chapman project has made a point to preserve the historic details inherent to the Chapman Center’s architectural design, while upgrading and remodeling the building to function more energy-efficiently as well as meet the needs of modern students and faculty members.
Hallways and corridors, previously and perhaps most charitably described as dim, now benefit from a system of skylights on the fourth level, allowing light to spill down through the structure’s unique series of internal apertures and balconies. Windows now have insulated glass for energy efficiency, floor plans offer better seating options for studying, collaborating, and socializing, classrooms have movable furniture, writing surfaces, and better technology, and familiar venues like great halls and lobbies are re-invigorated by new surfacing and materials, all while still maintaining the iconic accents and artwork that made Chapman, well, Chapman in the first place.
When viewed alongside the entire Chapman-Dicke-Halsell complex project, the Chapman Center’s upgrades are part of the largest construction project in modern University campus history, surpassing even the Center for the Sciences and Innovation.
An Academic Journey
While the Chapman Center’s physical structure has changed, the building has also adapted to serve different academic roles to students across the decades.
While the space was initially significant for being the first building on campus dedicated exclusively to the purposes of graduate education, Chapman was eventually called to serve more undergraduate classes and departments in the 1980s, as then-University President Ronald Calgaard led Trinity toward a vision of the future that rested primarily with undergraduate studies.
In the modern era, departments such as History, Philosophy and Business have called the space home, while countless other programs and courses have been offered there. All told, the space serves about 60% of all students, and about a third of Trinity’s faculty, too.
Now, as the space re-opens, the Chapman Center will house the School of Social Sciences as well as the Michael Neidorff School of Business.
For Trinity’s graduate programs in accounting and Health Care Administration, this is an especially poignant homecoming, as these two graduate programs (both with incredibly successful graduate placement rates) will carry on the Chapman Center’s legacy as a center for postgraduate excellence.
Across all subjects, undergraduate and graduate, Trinity’s investment in Chapman Center is a demonstration of the University’s commitment to foster student success by revamping and re-invigorating the infrastructure that houses and enables contemporary, hands-on teaching, research, and learning.
Chapman’s renovation is a statement of belief in the future of the liberal arts. And this statement is one that’s being made not just by the University, but by an entire community of supporters, united by a vision for what the next chapter of Chapman’s book can be.
An Invested Community of Support
Simply put, the new Chapman Center would not have been possible without the generous support of donors.
Throughout Trinity’s history, supporters have made ambitious pledges to this school at pivotal moments, whether they be challenges posed by great depressions and world wars, or recessions and pandemics.
The original Chapman Center was named for the Chapman family, whose members have been on each of Trinity’s campuses (Tehuacana, Waxahachie, and now San Antonio) since the University was founded in 1869.
This family includes entrepreneur Philip Chapman, a prominent farmer, rancher, and oil pioneer in the southwest, who had eight children, six of whom attended college on one of these campuses; as well as Philip’s son and daughter-in law, James Allen Chapman and Leta Chapman, who created a trust for Trinity.
The team of donors behind the modern Chapman project might not all be related by blood, but they are no less united in their vision for the future of the building. Fundraising for this project involved a tight circle of major donors, but also drew on the passion and commitment of gifts of all sizes throughout Trinity’s community of support.
Turning the Page
As the Chapman Center begins a new era, Trinity University is excited to welcome its students, faculty, and entire community of supporters into these newly refurbished halls.
The Chapman Center’s legacy—of collaboration, of discovery, and of innovation—has grown for six decades. As part of Trinity’s academic backbone, the building will not only support the achievements of past generations, but advance Trinity’s timeless values of enduring excellence, intentional inclusion, and perpetual discovery.
Chapman is the spine holding a good book together. Now, with a modern set of upgrades that honor the past while, literally, shedding a skylight on the future, Trinity students and faculty will have room to add new chapters.