By Mary Howard
Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh ’80 believes that community–“with a capital ‘C’ ”–is Trinity’s biggest asset. “The College cannot move forward without participation from all its members,” she says. A nine-year veteran of the Board of Trustees with an extraordinary record of service, Thornburgh took over as board chair on July 1. Her goal is for Trinity to be recognized as the nation’s premier liberal arts college in an urban center.
Thornburgh has a reputation as an excellent communicator, but her first order of business is to listen. She has been busy meeting with students, alumni, staff, faculty, and local neighborhood organizations, and she’ll use their input to help build “a community of scholars, who will become activists for a better future,” she says.
“Cornie has a capacity to listen with seemingly endless patience,” says Brownell Professor of Philosophy Dan Lloyd. He worked with Thornburgh on the Charter Committee for Building Community at Trinity and describes her as an inclusive leader. “She is a tireless seeker of consensus.”
Thornburgh is also a gifted fundraiser. The former political science major earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University and spent several years working on Wall Street. She served as tri-chair of Trinity’s Cornerstone Campaign and was national chair of the Trinity Annual Fund.
“Financially, we face challenges common to every other liberal arts school. We need to find a way to make college accessible to all who want to attend and are capable of performing well at an elite institution.” Raising scholarship funds is a top priority, she says. So is paying faculty and staff fair compensation and ensuring that the College’s programs and physical plant match the standards of a top liberal arts institution.
Thornburgh chaired the Presidential Search Committee, and she and President Joanne Berger-Sweeney see eye to eye on community building. “Wherever she goes, Dr. Berger-Sweeney builds highly functioning communities,” says Thornburgh. “She is focused on relying on all of the College’s constituents to support the core mission of a Trinity education.”
Though she is realistic about the challenges ahead, Thornburgh is confident about the future. She cites Trinity’s Hartford location, its dedicated alumni, and its dynamic new president as central to the College’s success.
“Trinity is the place I want to direct my time, talent, and treasure,” she says. “I feel I can help this incredible community of talented educators, students, and alumni move our College forward to realizing its ambitions.”