Dr. Joanne Berger-Sweeney, the 22nd President of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., returned to the church of her childhood, Holman United Methodist Church to celebrate it’s Unity and Anniversary Sunday on August 30. Inaugurated on July 1, 2014, Berger-Sweeney is the first African American and female President to lead Trinity College.
A native of Los Angeles, Berger-Sweeney became a “debutante for Christ” over 40 years ago at Holman. “Holman will always be home to me. I buried both my parents, Armeta and Paul Sweeney, Sr. here, I brought my daughter Clara to be baptized here, and I asked former Holman pastor, Rev. James Morris Lawson, Jr. to speak at the 189th Commencement, my first commencement ceremony as President of Trinity.” It was also my great honor to confer an honorary doctor of divinity degree upon Dr. Lawson in recognition of his life’s work as a leader for justice, peace, and equality.” Berger-Sweeney said. “I carry the banner of Holman with me wherever I go because this church has shaped my journey as a leader. My desire to impact the world began right here at Holman.”
An accomplished neuroscientist, teacher, and scholar, President Berger-Sweeney graduated from Wellesley College and the John Hopkins School of Public Health where she received a PhD in neurotoxicology. Berger-Sweeney would go on to become the first African American woman to earn full professorship status at Wellesley College and to serve as Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University.
As President of Trinity, Berger-Sweeney, developed a 18th-month plan focused on fostering “a strong cultural climate on campus, thinking about what is needed for academic excellence, the financial future of the institution, and making sure that people are talking about Trinity with pride and leveraging the fact that we are a liberal arts college located in Hartford and how to foster relationships with our neighbors and the City of Hartford.” “I love the fact that Trinity is a very prominent, historical, and stunningly, beautiful institution located in right in the city of Hartford.” “I am proud to be the first African American President but I hope to also be known as one of the best presidents that Trinity College has ever had,” Berger-Sweeney said.
Berger-Sweeney considers herself fortunate to have had mentors and supporters that helped her throughout her career and she seeks to do the same. “I would encourage African Americans students to do what they love when choosing a career and to persevere. When you choose something you love, there is more of a chance that you will be very good at it,” Berger-Sweeney said. “I also believe that great leaders listen with compassion and bring their concerns to God and I have learned to truly listen and would encourage young people to listen to their heart and follow those desires.” Holman taught me “God can impact the world in small, subtle ways.”
Berger-Sweeney resides in Hartford with her husband, Dr. Urs V. Berger, a neuroscientist/ computer wiz and owner of one of the largest Caribbean music collections in the world. Her daughter Clara is a freshman at Wellesley College and son Tommy is a sophomore in high school.
FUN FACTS ABOUT PRESIDENT BERGER-SWEENEY:
LAS: Favorite vacation place?
PBS: The Galapagos Islands. As a trained scientist, how could I not love the Galapagos Islands?
LAS: Favorite movie?
PBS: The Matrix – I loved the Matrix because it’s a movie about having a frame shift in your mind and allowing yourself to see the world in a different light. It’s a movie about Faith too!
LAS; Favorite artist?
PBS: Toni Scott, the sculptor. Check her work out at www.toniscott.com