Alumnus Jeffrey Tigchelaar ’99 never planned to be a writer when he first came to Trinity. Upon graduation, he was under a different mindset.
“I would say that I came to Trinity in 1995 to play baseball but left as a writer,” said Tigchelaar. “My horizons were definitely broadened.”
A recent recipient of the Langston Hughes Poetry Prize and nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Tigchelaar said that Trinity played a part in changing his focus and shaping him as a writer.
“Trinity was the turning point for me,” he said. “I entered the school somewhat directionless, and then one of my English professors freshman year helped me see I was a writer.”
From there, Tigchelaar’s journey progressed as he started writing and editing for the College’s student newspaper and worked as a reporter and editor after graduation. The theme of many of the lessons Tigchelaar has learned is to accept change.
“I’ve learned that life is change,” he said. “It can be agonizing to look back at some of the writing I did in the past. Some of my old papers and editorials would make me cringe today, but the challenge is to see it all as formative and necessary steps.”
Those steps have been rewarding for Tigchelaar, who had a poem selected for Verse Daily. A few years ago, he also received a grant for some of his poetry from the Ohio Arts Council.
“[The grant] came at a point when I was unsure about the direction my writing and career seemed to be going,” he said. “I remember realizing that if there’s someone out there willing to award me for writing, then there must be something to what I’m doing.”
What keeps Tigchelaar passionate is that, to him, writing is more than putting words on a page.
“I see writing as art—as creativity, expression, freedom, and imitation of God as Creator,” he said. “Anytime we’re creative and doing it as best we can, we’re honoring God. If what I’m doing not only makes me feel joyful and alive, but does that for others, too, there’s a purpose to write.”
Tigchelaar lives with his wife Jana ’00 and their daughter Charlotte, 4, and son Sam, 2, in Lawrence, Kansas. He enjoys his days being a stay-at-home dad and writes whenever he can.