Seattle University presents its highest, most prestigious honor, the 2018 St. Ignatius Medal, to Steve and Tricia Trainer, ’02, in recognition of their unwavering commitment to service. Through their generous and ongoing gifts of time, resources and expertise the Trainers have empowered communities locally and globally to pursue social justice. They have also helped drive Seattle University’s launch of two key initiatives: global engagement and the Indigenous Peoples Institute, both of which directly support the university’s mission to empower leaders for a just and humane world.
It’s not the Trainers’ way to tout their personal roles in the success of these projects—they prefer to honor others who have inspired them to make a difference. And they show gratitude for the Catholic faith and social teachings that have opened their eyes and hearts to the experiences of marginalized and under-resourced populations around the world.
“Steve and I would be very different people had we not come into the Jesuit community at St. Joseph Parish and at Seattle U,” Tricia says.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
ATTRIBUTED TO SAINT TERESA OF AVILA
Throughout her life, Tricia has felt called to ministry. When daughters Sarah and Christina were grown, she decided to pursue this calling and enrolled in the Master of Divinity program at the School of Theology and Ministry. After graduating, Tricia became a spiritual director in the SEEL program (Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life), a nine-month retreat offered through SEEL Puget Sound.
Steve’s connection to Seattle U began when Pat Howell, S.J., asked him to join the School of Theology and Ministry Executive Advisory Board. The university was in the process of building Hunthausen Hall as a home for the school and Steve’s background and experience in construction management was a good fit.
“When I joined the STM board 20 years ago, I remember feeling that Seattle U was one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets,” he says. “In fact, I sent a handwritten letter to President Sundborg sharing my perception of Seattle U as ‘Seattle’s university’ and encouraging him to reference it in this way. Because of its location, Seattle U had a lot of things going for it that were very appealing.”
An impactful immersion trip to El Salvador in 1990 elevated Steve’s concern for the many challenges faced by people in the developing world. He traveled with a delegation from Seattle’s St. Joseph Parish to the community of Arcatao on the Honduran border, where St. Joe’s had a sister parish. El Salvador was in the midst of civil war and it was dangerous and physically difficult to reach the region. The delegation persevered and upon arriving at their destination, they listened to the Salvadoran people’s heart-wrenching stories of the hardship and loss they endured.
“I was struck by the spiritual depth of the people we met in Arcatao,” Steve says. “I spoke with a man who had hidden for three days in a 12-inch cavity between two buildings to avoid being killed by army soldiers. He said that a local priest, Father Miguel, had visited him each day and together they said the Lord’s Prayer. That connection is what enabled him to endure a situation of severe misery.”
Years after Steve’s initial trip to El Salvador, he met Joe Orlando, director of the Center for Jesuit Education, for coffee. The two had become acquainted through the Men’s Ministry at St. Joseph Parish. According to Steve, Joe talked about the need for greater focus on global engagement at Seattle U. They discussed the importance of elevating global issues and experiencing places in the world where Americans don’t normally go. This conversation progressed to a written proposal to President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., for a Global Engagement Initiative that would develop opportunities for students, faculty and staff to participate in research, study and service experiences in Nicaragua. The proposal was accepted and the Trainers provided the funding to launch the initiative in 2014.
The Nicaragua Initiative, which evolved out of an existing relationship between Seattle University and the Universidad Centroamericana—UCA in Managua, expanded to become the Central America Initiative. Under the leadership of Serena Cosgrove, PhD, there are outreach, programs and research across Nicaragua, including the isolated Caribbean Coast, and in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and beyond. Seattle U has also launched global initiatives in India and Africa. Similar to the Central America Initiative, these programs are developing opportunities for student/faculty academic exchanges, service learning and collaborative research. The Trainers have played an integral role in these initiatives. In addition to providing necessary funding, Steve has been an active member and chair of Seattle U’s Global Task Force.
With Steve at the helm of the Trainers’ global philanthropy, Tricia has been the voice of the couple’s local philanthropic work. For 30 years, the Trainers have supported the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit organization located in the heart of Pioneer Square that provides a safe and sacred place for urban Native peoples in need to rest, revive and nurture their spirit. It was there that they came to know Patrick Twohy, S.J., who had spent most of his life serving Native American populations and regularly came to the club to celebrate mass. Father Twohy, who is a Jesuit in residence at Seattle U, talked with the Trainers about the need for a place on campus where Indigenous students could create a sense of home and raise the visibility of Indigenous cultures. From this conversation came the idea for the Indigenous Peoples Institute (IPI), which was launched in 2016 by the Trainers, Fr. Twohy and Christina Roberts, PhD. The IPI delivers programming that amplifies Indigenous voices and concerns, raises awareness of Indigenous cultures and provides opportunities for student and community engagement. In fall 2018, the IPI will open the doors to its newly remodeled permanent space in the Xavier residence hall.
Native cultures have so much to offer all of us; respect for elders, respect for the earth, respect for traditions. We need to listen and learn.
TRICIA TRAINER, '02
“I’ve heard it said that for Indigenous peoples to fully accept an outsider into their community, they need to know that you’re there for the long haul,” says Tricia. “That you’re not just going to drop in and out of their lives. Steve and I are committed. Native cultures have so much to offer all of us—respect for elders, respect for the earth, respect for traditions. We need to listen and learn.”
Adds Steve, “I think of ‘local’ and ‘international’ as our philanthropic bookends. Both are important. In a way, the Indigenous Peoples Institute and the Chief Seattle Club are also bookends. Most Chief Seattle Club members are homeless and the club provides nurture and services that inspire hope and help members get on their feet. The IPI, we hope and intend, will increase the number of Indigenous students attending Seattle U and open doors to opportunity. … Each bookend is equally important.”
The rich history of Seattle University is built upon the dedication, hard work, and voluntary service of individuals within the University's alumni and the Jesuit community. The unwavering faith of these individuals in the educational mission of the University and their selfless dedication to advancing Seattle University's progress is the foundation upon which past and future accomplishments have been built.
Being at the core of Jesuit teachings and the Catholic faith, service is a hallmark of our community. And for some, it is performed with such love, humility, and joy that it inspires – and even leads – our purpose and progress. Named in honor of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits whose work inspires Seattle University's mission today, the St. Ignatius Medal aims to recognize individuals within our community who have inspired us with their voluntarism, leadership, humility, and service and whose work has influenced profoundly the progress of the University.