Capital Campaigns
Grit, generosity helped Trinity overcome hardscrabble beginnings
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Calgaard with his poster.

Ron Calgaard’s campaign raised nearly $50 million dollars for the university.

Trinity may look picture-perfect today, but over the years, the University’s growth has depended on the resilience of the whole community. In its early days, some university presidents like Leonidas Kirkes took to horseback to travel the state soliciting money from farmers and ranchers. While the Tehuacana campus was under construction, increasing expenses forced the Board to sell university land to make ends meet. Trinity placed advertisements requesting donations of grain and livestock. Even faculty members began to solicit contributions to replenish the building fund. Despite the lack of money, the Trustees were considering creating a theological department for divinity students. Underpaid and overworked, faculty members responded by inviting the Trustees to join them in a weekly prayer meeting "for the purpose of asking God to bless our efforts in building up this great interest, and especially to put it in the hearts of the people to give of their means for its endowment."

The move to Waxahachie proved lucrative for the young university. A committee was appointed to receive sealed bids from all cities in the state that might wish to have Trinity University relocate to their community. Waxahachie businessman W. H. Getzendaner led a funding campaign in competition with the nearby towns of Itasca and Corsicana. After visiting each of the towns that had submitted sealed bids, the synod's locating committee voted unanimously to accept Waxahachie's proposition, which,  thanks to local banks and citizens, amounted to $80,000. In celebration, Waxahachie citizens held a "jollification meeting" in the district courtroom accompanied by music from the Firemen's Band and "spellbinding" addresses by local orators. The Waxahachie Enterprise proclaimed in a banner headline, "Trinity Comes to Waxahachie."

Miller, Laurie, and Calvert.

Moving to San Antonio in the 1940s presented new financial challenges. The Presbyterian synods wanted the chamber to deliver $1 million: The University of San Antonio, with all its assets, valued at $400,000; a five-year annuity of $25,000 per year, underwritten and guaranteed by the chamber; a campaign to secure funds to purchase or lease the so-called Wesleyan property adjacent to the University of San Antonio, valued at $475,000 and consisting of approximately 20 acres and two buildings; and options on other property contiguous to the San Antonio campus to secure a total of at least 150 acres. The chamber approved the report and its recommendations, paving the way for the move to San Antonio.

Four decades later, President Ron Calgaard’s fundraising drive stands out as Trinity’s most successful capital campaign. Aware that Calgaard's institutional vision could not be implemented without sufficient financial undergirding, the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed in 1981 to launch a $48.5 million capital campaign, “A Commitment to Distinction.” Aimed at enriching rather than expanding the campus, Calgaard’s signature campaign aimed at raising money for expenses such as laboratory equipment, library acquisitions, and scholarships.

With support from Trustees, staff, alumni, and faculty, the capital campaign committee solicited contributions from a wide variety of potential donors throughout the country. Leading by example throughout the grueling three-year campaign, Calgaard committed considerable time and energy to fundraising in addition to his traditional presidential duties. At a dinner meeting in May 1984, the board held a victory celebration to mark the campaign's successful completion.

Other capital campaigns have also provided funding for necessary campus buildings and resources. The iconic Center for Sciences and Innovation was made possible by a funding campaign called “Dream. Inspire. Achieve,” spearheaded by University President John Brazil. By its end in 2010, the campaign had raised more than $200 million. Right after the 2010 first-years signed the Academic Honor Code, the whole Trinity community celebrated the successful campaign with an all-campus picnic around Miller Fountain.

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