UD President Emeritus Trabant remembered at celebration ceremony
4:41 p.m., Aug. 13, 2012--University of Delaware President Emeritus Edward Arthur (Art) Trabant was remembered as a person of deep personal integrity, courage and optimism during a celebration of his life held Sunday, Aug. 12, in Clayton Hall.
The 22nd and 24th president of the University, Dr. Trabant died on Friday, July 20, after a brief illness. He was 92.
True blue spirit
Introduced by J. Cameron Yorkston, a graduate of the Class of 1971 and longtime friend of the Trabant family, University President Patrick Harker offered condolences and thanks to Dr. Trabant’s wife of 68 years, Jeraldine Merlyn Shanessy Trabant, and daughters Arta, Amanda and Jeri.
“I thank all of you for coming out to show your respect, affection and love for Dr. Trabant, whose imprint on this University is set in such deep relief,” Harker said. “It is no overstatement to say that the University of Delaware is the institution it is today because of President Trabant.”
Harker noted that Dr. Trabant, who took office in 1968, during a time of national student unrest, guided the University through two decades that saw the student body increase from 7,500 to more than 15,000 undergraduates.
Many of the University’s signature programs and centers, including the Institute for Energy Conversion and the Center for Composite Materials, were established during Dr. Trabant’s two terms as president, Harker said.
“He also was deeply concerned with improving academic opportunities for underrepresented minorities and for women,” Harker said. “It’s a privilege of mine each year to present the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity, honoring Art’s passion for support for women’s inclsuion, opportunity and equality on campus.”
Carol Hoffecker, Richard Professor Emerita of History, said that Dr. Trabant’s embrace of inclusivity included the initiation of a new community design for UD that included creating a commission of students, faculty and administrators.
“President Trabant and his wife, Jerry, put great emphasis on nurturing a relationship with students,” Hoffecker said. “When students organized a candlelight memorial to their fellow student demonstrators killed at Kent State and came to the president’s house, the Trabants did not call the police, they joined in. That response says a great deal about the Trabants’ principles and their courage.”
Hoffecker said that in an interview conducted some eight years ago, Dr. Trabant emphasized that his greatest accomplishment was his marriage to his life’s partner, Jerry.
“Everything he did, he said, flowed from the strength and support of that magnificent bond,” Hoffecker said. “He was a remarkable individual, who, as his wife Jerry says, loved this University.”
Andrew Kirkpatrick, former chairman and honorary counselor to the UD Board of Trustees, said that every reference to “Art Trabant brings to mind his many special qualities.”
“When I think of him, my first memory is his sense of humor,” Kirkpatrick said. “It turned many standard occasions into wonderful experiences, when otherwise they would have been quite ordinary.”
Kirkpatrick also lauded Dr. Trabant’s courage as evidenced by “his firm determination in matters he considered important,” including taking the initiative to build a new basketball arena at UD.
Amanda Trabant, who described herself as the youngest member of the Trabant clan, said, “I can still feel the essence of my father, my daddy, Jerry’s husband, my sisters’ dad, a beautiful person.”
Describing how each member of the family shared a unique relationship with her father, Amanda Trabant said her relationship evolved over time and across a great distance.
“In many ways, my life is a microcosm of continuing learning, as we all have matured into the people that are here today,” Amanda Trabant said. “I would like to honor my daddy by saying that it was a special privilege to know you, to live with you, share in your intellect, feel safe in your arms and have the security that you loved us all.”
Among her father’s most defining aspects, Amanda Trabant said, were his love for his wife, Jerry, and his intellect, evidenced in a sentence from his inaugural address as UD president: “There is a truth beyond fear which may be pursued by intellectual discipline.”
“This statement struck a chord with me and it turns out to be the conviction that gave daddy his specialness, his dignity, sense of humor, optimism, strength, love of humanity, dedication to community and future generations, belief in education for all, and finally, his radiant smile.”
A light, sentimental touch was added to the celebration by musical selections offered on piano by Thomas Palmer, assistant professor of music, beginning with the UD Fight Song and ending with the playing and singing of the UD alma mater.
Musical selections also included My Wild Irish Rose, Good Night, Sweetheart and a ragtime classic requested some 80 years ago by a young Art Trabant after attending the funeral of a neighborhood mentor and friend, Yorkston said.
“Art attended that service and came away with the feeling that it was much too dark and much too sad. When he got home, he told his parents, ‘I’m not going to have that at my service. Alexander’s Ragtime Band will be a piece that will be played at my service,’” Yorkston said. “So today, with Art in mind, he gets his wish.”
Family members received guests during a reception following the celebration ceremony.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Evan Krape