Lanelle Taylor ’57 reflects on Trinity’s past and future
by Mike Patterson
When Lanelle Waddill Taylor ’57 received the 2018-19 Trinity University President’s Report, she pulled out a sheet of paper and penned a personal letter to Danny Anderson. “Wow,” she exclaimed. “I immediately thought how excited Dr. James Laurie would be if he had read it!”
Like many who attended Trinity during Laurie’s tenure as president, Taylor has a special admiration for his leadership, which included moving Trinity from the Woodlawn campus, partnering with O’Neil Ford to transform an old rock quarry into today’s architectural masterpiece, and shifting Trinity from an institution on the brink of bankruptcy to a respected university.
For Taylor and others of her generation, measuring up to Laurie’s achievements is the highest form of praise.
“He (Laurie) was a man with a dream for Trinity’s future and worked expertly to lay the appropriate foundation,” she wrote to Anderson. “It appears to me you and other Trinity committed leaders have helped make that dream come true.”
Taylor’s love for Trinity extends beyond her admiration for Laurie and Anderson—she is among at least eight family members to have chosen to attend Trinity since the 1920s.
Her father, Peyton Waddill ’30, and mother, Mary Ethel Barnett ’29, met while they attended Trinity when it was in Waxahachie, Texas. “Ever since then I’ve had relatives attend,” she says. “It’s been a university for our family.”
Her mother’s brothers, Prentice, Maurice and Lane, also attended Trinity.
Taylor chose to attend Trinity because her father was a Presbyterian minister. “They were a very devoted Presbyterian family,” she explains. “Trinity was a Presbyterian university.”
Her brother, Ed, is also a graduate of Trinity. He was a senior at Trinity while Taylor was a freshman. Like their father, Ed went on to become a Presbyterian minister.
Her brother, Douglas Waddill ’63, attended, as well as his late wife, Annelle Lykins Waddill ’63. Her son, Peter Leigh Taylor ’81, is a Trinity graduate and now heads the Department of Sociology at Colorado State University. Several cousins also attended.
Taylor was a suitemate of Mary Jane Grafton, who married the Rev. Raymond Judd, Trinity’s chaplain emeritus. She has known the Judds since they met at a Presbyterian summer camp while in high school. “They’ve remained my lifelong friends,” she says. “I’m very fond of them. I’m very close to them. We’re almost like brothers and sisters.”
Taylor acknowledges that she “wasn’t the strongest student because I was so involved in student government” and had a part-time job as a secretary at the University Presbyterian Church throughout college. “My grades weren’t the best, but I was really pro-Trinity and still am,” she says.
While attending church-related events as a student, she met a woman who was in charge of the student work office of the Presbyterian Church in New York City. When she graduated, she says, “I didn’t want to go right from a school into a local church. I wanted to do something else church-related first.” She wrote her contact in New York and was offered a job there. “It was a wonderful experience,” she says.
After a spell there, she moved to Houston and worked as a church educator with the Presbyterian Church synod. That’s where she met her future husband, Norman.
At the time, he was married with two little boys and serving as associate pastor at a Presbyterian church in Baytown. After his wife passed away from cancer, she says, “that’s when we reconnected. He got in touch with me, and I became his wife. We had two more boys.”
When he retired, they moved to Clifton to be near the land where her grandparents established a farm just down the highway in Valley Mills. “I always wanted to live in the home base area,” she says. “I kept coming back to my grandparents’ farm all my life to visit.”
Reflecting on her time at Trinity, Taylor says that “it was a different world than the way it is now. Dr. Laurie had such wonderful dreams for that university and worked very hard toward meeting those dreams. He was really a dynamic person. I attribute a lot of Trinity’s current success to his efforts.”
Taylor concluded her letter to Anderson with a “THANK YOU” spelled in capital letters for his leadership—”and God’s blessings on you, the faculty, students, and alumni as Trinity’s role in education continues.”