John R. Brazil, Ph.D., president emeritus of Trinity University, died on Thursday, June 2. Brazil served as the 17th president of Trinity from 1999-2010.
Known for his quiet, thoughtful, and studious nature, Brazil would often state that his vision was “to move Trinity from its position of eminence to preeminence and propel it into the front ranks of America’s finest smaller colleges and universities.” To help fund this goal, Brazil oversaw the successful completion of a historic $200 million capital campaign. Dream. Inspire. Achieve. The Campaign for Trinity University exceeded its goal by raising $205.9 million in gifts and pledges that would sustain Trinity’s future and allow the University to further invest in its students and faculty.
Progress toward Brazil’s vision included hiring numerous new faculty members, redesigning the common curriculum, re-conceptualizing student life, implementing an Academic Honor Code, revitalizing both Trinity University Press and KRTU-FM, dramatically increasing the number, quality, and diversity of applicants for admissions, and internationalizing both the faculty and student body.
“A heterogeneous student population—not just domestic diversity, but international diversity—is as important as any other single factor in the personal development and intellectual growth of students,” Brazil said in a 1999 interview with Trinity magazine. Brazil increased the percentage of international students from 1% in 1999 to 9% a decade later. During his tenure, the amount of students studying abroad also increased from roughly a third of the student body to one half.
As one of his first acts as president, Brazil revived the opening convocation for first-year and transfer students and was the first president to climb Murchison Tower, creating the beloved Trinity tradition now known as Tower Climb, where the University president greets students at the top of the tower during orientation.
With technology booming at the turn of the 21st century, Brazil grew Trinity’s information technology resources at a rapid pace. Under Brazil, Trinity’s campus went wireless, and the library “became a place where students could drink lattes and edit video projects instead of tiptoeing through the stacks,” according to a 2009 mySA article. The University enhanced its technological infrastructure and took degree audits and course registration fully online. To create focused leadership in this area, Brazil also created the position of vice president for information resources and administrative affairs.
“Technology will have, and continue to have even more than it has today, an impact on the way we learn, the way we teach, what we learn, and what we teach,” Brazil said in his interview with Trinity magazine. Brazil also oversaw the addition of major new facilities, including a new Northrup Hall and the Dicke Art and Smith Music buildings, and a renovated Ruth Taylor Recital Hall. The Board of Trustees awarded Brazil the Distinguished Service Award, the University’s most prestigious honor, for his significant contributions to Trinity.
Before arriving at Trinity, Brazil served as president of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Prior to Bradley, he was president and chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Brazil taught at Yale and San Jose State University before beginning his career in higher education administration.
Brazil received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Stanford University and earned a Master of Philosophy and doctorate in American Studies from Yale University. He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Sydney in 1980 and a delegate in the U.S. Department of Education and American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ mission to the Soviet Union in 1989. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Samara State Aerospace University in Russia in 1997. Brazil was active in numerous academic, professional, and civic organizations and published in scholarly journals frequently.
Brazil is survived by his wife, Janice Hosking Brazil, and their two children—a son, Adrian, and daughter, Morgan.