headshot of coleen grissom with book covers for the hunger games, to kill a mockingbird, the girl with the dragon tattoo, and the color purple
Remarkable Gifts and Promise
Coleen Grissom’s reading list and thoughts on leadership

One of Trinity’s challenges of which I’ve been aware since I first came to work here in 1958 is that (as we used to whine in administrative staff meetings in the Calgaard era) the University just didn’t attract enough “average” students. Admissions staff through the years considered applicants with strong academic records as well as indications of involvement in co-curricular activities. Before I realized what was happening, it came to me in an east Texas cliché from my youth: “Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.” (Which I’d now consider politically incorrect!)

Everyone here, however, was so proud of the promising students choosing to attend Trinity, that even the malcontents such as myself realized that this was a good thing of which we should take advantage to enrich the undergraduate experience on this campus. Many entering students already had leadership skills, and staff, faculty, and student leaders worked together to enrich their experiences, both in and out of the classroom. Not only did an almost unbelievable variety of clubs with diverse interests evolve, always—as I recall it—at the instigation of students, but also, staff and faculty added roles as advisers and sponsors to their already heavy workload.

Guiding students to not overload themselves with responsibilities with teams and clubs was a challenge. When their social or athletic commitments hampered their academic performance, the parent or adviser intervened helpfully.

So, here we were in the late sixties realizing that this University had a responsibility as well as a new aspect of Trinity to brag about. Compatible with these responsibilities were (and are) the commitment to small classes, well-designed advising, and, in classes where it is appropriate, emphasis on students’ developing speaking and writing skills. Trinity’s academic departments also helped students begin early associations with scholarly journals, as well as assume (with the assistance of an adviser experienced in the field) the vast majority of the job of producing an article, an exhibition of student creative work, and introductions to the many “celebrity” scholars and writers who come here, thanks to our several generously endowed speakers’ programs.

I would never proclaim that Trinity solely developed the skills of leaders; through the decades this exciting institution, with its superb faculty, staff, and facilities, has accepted first-year students who bring with them remarkable gifts and promise. Instead, it helped them hone their skills so they have the ability to lead and to motivate others.

Speaking of such ability, I leave you with a list of leaders I most admire from my readings. If you dare admit to not recollecting the source of any, please let me know.

List of Literary Leaders I Most Admire

1. Atticus Finch

2. Nancy Drew

3. Miss Marple

4. Perry Mason

5. Hercule Poirot

6. Simon Peter

7. Celie

8. Elizabeth Bennet

9. Jane Eyre

10. Lord Peter Wimsey

11. Lisbeth Salander

12. Jo March

13. Katniss Everdeen

14. James Bond

15. Sydney Carton

16. Gabriel Oak

Coleen Grissom, Ph.D., is a professor emerita of English at Trinity University. 

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