NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — After 26 and a half years, Christopher Newport University President Paul Trible has stepped down.
He will serve as chancellor for this upcoming academic year, and will then go into retirement to spend more time with his family.
Before he leaves, he sat down with WAVY for an interview you will read only here.
In 1988, then Republican U.S. Senator Paul Trible decided not to run for re-election because he then too wanted to spend more time with his family.
Democrat and former Governor Chuck Robb ran for the seat and won.
Republicans were livid with Trible, and they turned on him in 1989 when he ran for governor. Trible lost the Republican primary to Marshall Coleman, who would go on to lose to L. Douglas Wilder in November 1989.
However, Trible would grab victory from the jaws of defeat, and achieved things he never may have if he’d been elected governor.
“If I had been elected governor I would not have come to Christopher Newport, and this is what we were meant to do,” Trible said in what he called his last television interview.
We began by asking how he become president 26 and a half years ago.
“I was on the search committee to find the new president as part of the CNU Board of Visitors appointed by then Governor George Allen. The consultant for the search told us what we should be looking for in a leader … the consultant said we should look for people who have experience in government or finance or business. It was like a light went off in my mind, and I said ‘Oh my goodness. I might be a worthy candidate for this job.'”
Trible then added: “I told the board I’d like to be a candidate, so I left the room for them to discuss it, and a few weeks later the CNU Rector David Peebles called me and said ‘we are unanimous’ you’re our guy.’“
Trible took control and moved quickly.
“We rejected the notion of incremental progress, we are in the business of dramatic transformation.”
No better “before and after” picture shows that more than the one of Trible’s administration building in 1996, and the new one that stands on campus today.
Everywhere you look on campus, things are new and clean.
“When we first came to Christopher Newport, we had superb music and theater programs and no place for them to perform,” he said.
So, with over $1 billion in capital improvements over the years, Trible’s vision led to the Ferguson Center for the Arts.
“That audacious dream, that together we could build one of America’s pre-eminent public liberal arts universities has become reality.”
Trible along with his partner of 50 years, his wife Rosemary, also changed CNU’s culture with this: care about the mind, but also care about the heart.
“We want our students to choose lives of meaning and consequence and purpose, and we call that a “Life of Significance,” and that is what distinguishes us as a university.”
Rosemary founded “Fear to Freedom.” Her non-profit inspires survivors of sexual assault to overcome fear.
She herself was a victim of rape at gunpoint in December 1975. The crime took place in a Richmond hotel after she taped her show, “Rosemary’s Guestbook.” She says the stranger broke into her room and raped her at gunpoint.
Paul Trible added: “Rosemary’s experience of moving from fear to forgiveness to freedom has empowered and enabled her to engage our students in extraordinary ways.”
A public university, CNU boasts a private school education for a fraction of the cost.
“We can also have a Christopher Newport that focuses on the undergraduate experiences. The liberal arts and sciences, create good citizens and leaders, whose classes are small, and whose professors engage students face to face. We have smaller class sizes for the 4,800 undergraduate students, and most of them live on campus all four years. Students who live on college campus are just a lot more successful. They are a lot more successful, socially, more successful academically,” Trible added.
Trible says a “Life of Significance” includes building character, forming leaders and caring about honor.
So he created the Community of Scholars Honor Convocation, where all freshmen sign honor codes. They got a healthy dose of Paul Trible on Friday, August 19.
He told the new class of freshmen of over 1,000: “The future is with the self-disciplined. The person who works while others waste their time, who study while others sleep, who pray while others play.”
Trible becomes emotional when talking about his children. He and Rosemary are known on campus as “mom and dad.”
“These are our sons and daughters. We have 5,000 sons and daughters, and we love them and care about them.”
After the Honor Convocation the sons and daughters gather on the Great Lawn for a picnic with the Tribles.
It is a magnificent view that was created with some of that $1 billion in capital improvement infrastructure.
WAVY met the Tate Twins from Chesapeake, and they are Trible fans for sure.
Mackenzie said “it seems like he has established a real tight knit community, which lead me to enroll here because I believe a community should be strong.”
Student Body President Celine Rosario added: “His personality, the way he talks to people, the way he engages. I’ll be going to class Wednesday at 9 a.m., and he’s like ‘good to see you and how are you.’ He is engaging and so nice.”
It’s amazing to watch the Tribles. They are engaged. They hug the students and Rosemary points out she hugs all students when they graduate.
We asked a group of students at a table on the lawn with the Tribles, what the Tribles mean to them. Almost in unison they responded: “Love, love and family, family.”
Trible piped in: “I love the word you have used. ‘Family.’ We have built on this campus an amazing community where people know each other, and care about each other, and speak to each other, and go the extra mile for each other, and hold the door for each other. That doesn’t happen today. We are blessed.”
Rosemary adds: “I have adored these students the last 26 years, and they have been some of the happiest years of my entire life with this man and sharing this dream together,” she said while gently touching Paul’s cheek.
Paul adds: “and looking around, on this lawn, and this university, and what it has become.”
“But being part of the lives of the students is what makes the difference. It’s not the buildings, it is their hearts,” Rosemary said.
Paul then says: “It’s one thing for a leader to talk about these values, but to see that reflected in faces and voices of your students is the most powerful thing in the world.”
Paul Trible sums up his whole philosophy with this: “We are put on this earth to make a difference, to make a contribution, to live a life of significance. That is what the CNU experience is all about.”