CHER shoutouts recognize students, alumni, staff, faculty, and community partners who contribute to CHER programming. This month we’re recognizing two alumni who continue to build partnerships between the College and the city–Shanelle Morris ‘16 and Jack Hale ‘70. Jack Hale is involved in numerous initiatives in Hartford and has worked with the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement as well as Trinity professors to engage students through tree planting, Colt history projects, and hosting volunteers at the Church of the Good Shepherd.
What is your current role and/or projects you are involved in?
I am Senior Warden (roughly, chair of the board) of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford, CT. This is a historic church built by Elizabeth Colt in memory of her husband Sam, the gun maker. Maintaining this spectacular 150-year-old building and its 125-year-old companion parish house has been a big job and a real learning experience. I am also a founding board member of the Coltsville Heritage Partnership and a board member of the Coalition to Sustain the Sheldon/Charter Oak Neighborhood, the neighborhood organization for the area in which the church is located. I am a trustee of the Ella Burr McManus Trust, a small group that built and maintains a plaza between Hartford City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The plaza is called Burr Mall. We recently completed full restoration of Stegosaurus, a remarkable steel structure by Alexander Calder. We also just completed full restoration of the fountain on the plaza. My second most time-consuming activity is chairing Hartford’s Tree Advisory Commission. The commission works with the City’s Forestry Division and other departments to preserve, sustain and enhance our urban forest. In the face of climate change and invasion by non-native insects and diseases, we work to figure out the best ways to maintain the critical environmental services provided by the city’s over 500,000 public and private trees. Our city’s tree ordinance and the landscape portion of our zoning code are on the cutting edge of urban forestry efforts. In my spare time, I coordinate the community garden on the grounds of the church. It serves about 2 dozen families who raise their own food there.
Were you involved with community engagement programs during your time at Trinity?
There weren’t really any community engagement programs at Trinity when I was there. That said, I managed to find ways to get off campus and pitch in. I was a tutor for kids at Fox School, just east of the Trinity campus. Trinity had an education department at that time, and through it I did student teaching at Hartford’s Bulkeley High School. I was part of the New Collegiate Jazz Band, a “big band,” that played concerts on campus but also travelled to play concerts at other colleges in the Northeast. The Vietnam Moratorium happened during my senior year. I helped organize teach-ins at nearby prep schools and I single-handedly organized a campus conference for public and private school leaders to help them figure out how to deal with activists coming to their campuses to teach about the war. I was also involved in the local activities to support the presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy.
What has your career path looked like and how did your involvement at Trinity influenced your career path or helped you in your career?
My career path, if I had one, didn’t really have much to do with my Trinity education, although the fact that I received some good writing instruction stood me in good stead in my later activities. My various activist experiences during my time at Trinity demonstrated that individuals can make a difference in their communities, particularly when they work with others. Following my courses in education at Trinity, I spent a few years trying to be a teacher. I then became involved in coordinating food co-ops, an activity I pursued off and on for years. I also drove a school bus, worked in a commercial greenhouse and had a few other random pursuits. Eventually, I ended up working for some Nader social/political action organizations where I focused on food issues. That led me to working for and eventually managing Hartford’s nonprofit that supported community and school gardening. I stayed in that role for over 25 years until I retired.
How do you engage with Trinity in your current work?
I work frequently with Joe Barber in the Community Engagement Office. Although 2020 was not a good year for it with the pandemic, in previous years he helped me find groups of volunteers to help with projects at the church and with various community landscaping/tree planting efforts in other parts of the city. I have also worked with several student interns from Trinity (as well as from other local colleges) on projects related to Hartford’s trees and Colt history. I have hosted class tours and activities for various Trinity professors.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Learn how to express yourself clearly in writing. Being able to communicate clearly and directly without distracting errors will be valuable in whatever career you find, not to mention in your personal and volunteer life. Take advantage of the opportunities Hartford provides. As Ralph Nader once told me, college is the time of your life when you have more energy and more control over your time than you will ever have again. There are things to be learned in the city and there are opportunities to help people who are truly in need. Hartford is a rich environment.