Eric Estes ’91

Volunteer Spotlight

By Mary Howard

Building inclusive community—whether as a student, faculty member, or college administrator—is a thread running through Eric Estes’s life. And it started at Trinity.

“In some ways, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider and struggled to find a sense of personal belonging,” he says. But at Trinity, Estes discovered a place where he could learn a lot about himself in the company of peers who were doing the same. This experience set him on a path of trying to build communities that “acknowledge and value differences but also seek to build relationships across those differences,” he says.

Eric Estes
Eric Estes ’91
Photo courtesy of Brown University

Since 2016, Estes has been vice president for campus life at Brown University, where he oversees more than 400 staff members in 17 departments, including athletics, health and wellness resources, student activities, religious life, and one of the first centers for low-income and first-generation college students in the country. Previously, he was at Oberlin College, first as associate dean and director of the multicultural center, and then as vice president and dean of students. He also was an assistant professor in comparative American studies. Before Oberlin, he taught at Duke University.

Though he has spent his professional life in academia, Estes wasn’t terribly interested in academics in high school. However, “Trinity was very different, especially because of the talented faculty who invested in me and made learning meaningful,” he says. “I wouldn’t have the quality of personal and professional life that I have without my Trinity experience.”

Courses with former Professor of History Philip Bankwitz, Charles H. Northam Professor of History Samuel Kassow ’66, and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of History Cheryl Greenberg inspired Estes to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Syracuse University. “Professor Bankwitz was an amazing storyteller. Professor Kassow gave captivating lectures. And Professor Greenberg is a lifelong mentor,” says Estes.

Outside the classroom, he was a member of the swimming and water polo teams and Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. “I learned so much, not just in my classes but also talking with peers in the dining hall, my dorm, and my fraternity house,” he says.

It’s this fondness for his undergraduate experience that inspires Estes’s service to Trinity. “I love the place,” he says. “I want to give back and help current students thrive during their time at Trinity and beyond.”

Estes is vice president of Trinity’s National Alumni Association (NAA) and will serve as its next president, effective July 1, 2019. Director of Alumni Relations Stephen Donovan calls Estes one of the most insightful, thoughtful, and caring alumni with whom he’s worked. Current NAA President Justin Maccarone Jr. ’81, P’19 agrees. “When Eric speaks, it is always meaningful,” he says. “He is passionate about Trinity and generous with his time and thoughts in his role on the NAA.”

As president, Estes will help the NAA continue to develop programs that strengthen alumni’s relationships with the college, especially with current students. “Trinity alums have so much to offer, and the student experience will be stronger because of their engagement,” says Estes. “Alumni are Trinity’s greatest assets.”