Corinne Lally Benedetto first stepped in front of a classroom when she was a 24-year-old graduate student, and tried to get Dominican University undergrads excited about the Marxian Dialectic. How did she teach young learners about the political perspective? By reading straight from the textbook.
“About two-thirds of them walked out to the registrar and dropped the class immediately,” Benedetto recalled, laughing. “That may have been when I went back to my Trinity memories and [thought], ‘I guess you can’t just stand up talking about German philosophers that people don’t know anything about and expect them to think that’s a great experience.'”
Thirty-five years later and Benedetto has refined her teaching technique, earning tenure as a professor at DePaul University, interim dean status at that institution’s School for New Learning, serving as DePaul’s associate dean of operations and enrollment management, and more. Benedetto’s professional and personal credentials recently convinced officials to name her president of Trinity High School, the all-girl Catholic secondary school in River Forest.
“Her academic background, her real passion for education, her career of strategic thinking on the future of Catholic secondary education,” said Walter Healy, chair of Trinity’s board of directors, of Benedetto. “She really had a great story to tell and the committee was just absolutely impressed with her credentials and what we believe is her ability to lead the institution into the future.”
Benedetto, a 1978 graduate of the school, succeeds longtime president Sister Michelle Germanson, who will remain at Trinity as president emerita and direct alumni relations. Benedetto will assume the role of president-elect on Jan. 22, and transition to the role permanently on July 1. She faces the tough task of driving up Trinity’s enrollment.
“In the next 15 years or so, the number of high school graduates in Illinois is projected to decline by almost 20 percent,” Benedetto said. “One in five who are there now will just not be there, and the people who are left in the pool of prospective students will come from families that traditionally have had a higher financial need.”
Benedetto attributes the decline in Trinity candidates to the national drop in birth rate. She plans to combat the problem by developing a strategic plan that convinces prospective students that Trinity’s $12,000 tuition is worth it. She plans to have finalized the plan by the end of her second year in office, but she’s not going to wait that long to act.
She has promised board members that enrollment will never fall below 126 students, the number in Trinity’s fall class of 2017. She plans to grow enrollment by repackaging what Trinity already offers, hosting open houses where students of various ages talk about how Trinity has impacted them, and offering videos and slideshows about learners’ professional outcomes, ACT scores, and the value of an International Baccalaureate education.
“We have to be able to do that because if you keep raising your tuition, then you have to have an explanation for it,” she said.
She also plans to start conducting surveys as well as exit interviews with families who leave Trinity before graduating. To drive additional revenue, Benedetto reimages Trinity as a community learning center, and wants to implement a GED program for outside learners, continuing education courses for the elderly, and invite guest speakers and host community events on campus. Benedetto plans to target prospective students in River Forest, Maywood, Chicago and nearby communities, as well as engage a global audience through new online programs.
“I want new ways for Trinity to grow outward into the community; I want new portals and new channels for the community to come into Trinity,” she said. “We can’t afford to be a school that does its education in the day and locks the doors at 3 o’clock because the buildings are still there, they’re available for use, and we’re still paying bills on them.”