Sunday’s 23k walk will take you through the campus of Trinity University, located between Brackenridge Park and the historic Monte Vista neighborhood.
Presbyterians founded Trinity in 1869 in Tehuacana, Texas (about 40 miles NE of Waco) from the remnants of three small colleges that had lost significant enrollment during the Civil War. Believing that the school needed the support of a larger community, the university moved in 1902 to Waxahachie, about 60 miles north, just south of Dallas. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 harmed the university to the extent that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed Trinity’s accreditation status on probation. Once again, its leaders began to consider relocation to a larger community to improve the university’s viability.
Methodists invited them to San Antonio. Their university here was about to shut down and they wanted to retain a Protestant school in this city that boasted three Catholic colleges. In 1945, Trinity acquired a former limestone quarry for a new campus and hired the young Texas architect O’Neil Ford to design a master plan and many of the buildings. Construction began in 1950, and the current campus opened in 1952.
The third time was a charm. Trinity’s 2,299 undergraduate students, 80 percent of them ranking in the top ten percent of their high school classes, come from 43 U.S. states plus 61 countries. Trinity was ranked first in the West in U.S. News & World Report‘s 2016 Regional University Rankings for the 24th consecutive year.
From the surrounding streets and highways, Trinity doesn’t look like much: it appears to turn a cold shoulder on the world outside. But from inside the campus it is a thing of beauty and genius, making brilliant use of the rugged peaks and valleys of the abandoned quarry. The 166-foot tall Murchison Tower is the most dominant landmark on the campus, designed by O’Neil Ford, who also designed San Antonio landmark Tower of the Americas a few years later, based on this design. The view of San Antonio from Trinity is stunning.
Among the world-class sculpture you will see on the campus are Henry Moore’s “Large Interior Form,” Barbara Hepworth’s “Conversations with Magic Stones” and Waldine Tauch’s “Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World.”
The innovative architecture of Trinity is it perfectly integrated with the terrain. It is strikingly modern and has aged well: if you are fond of mid-century modern architecture you will be in heaven during your campus walk. Oilman Tom Slick, then a trustee of Trinity, donated the use of his patent and hydraulic Jacks to enable Trinity’s early buildings to be erected by the innovative Youtz-Slick “lift-slab” method. Floor slabs weighing as much as 165 tons were poured one on top of the other on the ground, jacked to appropriate floor heights after curing, and welded into place on steel columns.How cool is that?
If you want to see more of Trinity, their theater department will be staging Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the evenings of 22-25 February. It is directed by visiting artist Nona Shepphard, Associate Director of the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. General admission tickets start at $12 and can be purchased online.
CAMPUS MAP (PDF)