A year ago this weekend, Tim Trainor arrived on the Mount St. Mary’s University campus for the first time.
Interviewing for the interim president position, the Army veteran marveled at the campus.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this place is beautiful,’” Trainor recalled. “It looked like people really cared about the institution because of how beautiful everything was. You get a good sense of the environment by looking at the campus, and I could see that people are putting their best foot forward for the institution.”
In the year since, Trainor, who was named interim president in August 2016, only grew fonder of the campus.
Trainor will now be around campus for the long haul, as the interim label was removed and he was appointed permanent president Saturday at a ceremony for alumni weekend at the campus.
“Since his appointment last summer, Tim and his wife, Donna, have become true members of the Mount family,” said Mary Kane, board of trustees chairwoman. “Tim has harnessed the devotion of all those who love the Mount to build remarkable forward momentum for the university. He has helped to improve trust, build community and enhance communication across the campus.”
Trainor was a unanimous selection by the board of trustees.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed, other than Trainor signed a new contract. Trainor signed a two-year contract in August when he took over for Simon Newman, who resigned in February 2016 after a national controversy regarding comments Newman made about student retention.
The controversy left a mark on the institution, and hurt the reputation of the school, Trainor said.
“It created a real divide at the institution, but also among alumni and benefactors, and quite frankly it hurt our reputation,” Trainor said. “It wasn’t me personally, but the institution decided that we need to get beyond that and move on. I think we’ve done enough as an institution that we have healed from it.”
When he took over, Trainor said he would not treat the job as if it had an interim label. He even made his office his own, adding bits of his personality to the room.
“When I arrived for the interview, I had to ask what an interim was,” Trainor said. “Coming from a military background, I wasn’t familiar with the term. But right off the bat, I said I wasn’t doing this just to be a caretaker. I was going at this full bore.”
A circular table sits on the right side of the room covered in military challenge coins — small medallions given from different organizations to Trainor during his military career. Trainor’s wife, Donna Brazil, bought him a glass covering for the table.
When Trainor arrived on campus, he sought advice from staff, faculty and students to develop a list of priorities for the school to achieve while he was at the helm.
Since then, the institution has implemented several programs and made strides in checking things off that list. The school approved efforts to elevate women’s rugby to a varsity-level sport, secured a $1 million donation to create the Palmieri Center for Entrepreneurship and hired its new director, and has laid the groundwork for developing a new five-year strategic plan, which he hopes to enact in October.
Enrollment, an ongoing challenge for the university, was another issue Trainor wanted to tackle. He feared enrollment numbers would be hurt even more by the Newman saga, and that students would not want to attend the Mount.
But the school’s efforts helped bring in an expected class of 500 incoming freshmen, according to deposits, which would be a 24 percent increase from last year.
Other challenges include retention and improving the campus’s facilities. The school will soon announce a capital campaign called “Forward! Together as One,” which will seek to raise $30 million. The campaign name comes from Trainor’s military background, and may seem fitting as the school moves on from Newman.
“We are only focused on moving forward now,” Trainor said. “There’s no looking back anymore.”
Before joining the Mount, Trainor served 33 years in the Army, retiring as a brigadier general, with his final six years as dean of the Academic Board at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
He was the chief academic officer, leading more than 800 faculty and staff spanning across 13 departments that served 4,400 students.
Trainor earned his doctorate in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University, an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy.
Trainor said his background in the military gave him the foundation needed to succeed as president.
The uncertainty of whether Trainor would continue on as permanent president didn’t take a toll on him or his family personally, he said. They’re used to moving around as a military family.
But Trainor’s appointment proves the Mount’s commitment to its new president and his commitment to the university.
“I’m just ecstatic to be remaining here,” Trainor said.