Civil Servant of the First Degree: Nancy Hargrave Trask ‘39

by Anne Dullaghan

Ask Nancy Trask what she’s good at and she’ll say organizing. But to anyone else, it’s clear that Nancy’s strongest trait is leadership. From her earliest days as Scripps’ freshman class president, and member of the Girl Scout’s National Organizing Council for the Western States, to her most recent work on the San Gabriel School Board and the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury, Nancy is definitely a woman who gets things done.

“I attribute all the things that my friends and I are interested in to Scripps,” she says. “Because Scripps let us develop as women. It’s amazing how much we are leaders and how strongly we feel about advancing women. If I had gone to school somewhere else, I don’t think I would have had that opportunity. Scripps taught us how to be self-sufficient women.”

That self-suffienciency—combined with a true entrepreneurial spirit led Nancy to help start programs for a number of the area’s social service organizations. “I was interested in the National Conference on Christians and Jews (now the National Conference on Community and Justice),” she recalls. “We organized an interracial religious camp during the 1960s, I directed that camp. Then, in the early 1970s, I was asked to be the associate director of the Los Angeles Job Corps.”

The Job Corps program recruits those just out of high school who haven’t ha any job training and teaches them skills to become employable. Nancy wrote a proposal to organize the first non-resident program of its kind in the country. NOt only did she find the locations, hire the staff, and develop the curriculum, she also recruited the participants and then supervised the whole program for 10 years.

“Meanwhile, ” she notes, “I was the president to the Sycamores. Ellen Ellis ’39 told us about the property in Altadena. I was president ton fht of the board and we purchased the property and built the current Sycamores facility.” (The Sycamores is a residential treatment facility for abused, neglected and emotionally disturbed boys.)

Nancy’s strong commitment to children extends well beyond her community work. Over the years she and her husband and their three children opened their home—and their lives to more than a dozen children of diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds. Thanks to the loving support of the Trask family, these children, now adults, have been able to take advantage of opportunities that otherwise would not have been available to them.

Some of the work Nancy is most prod of is her 12 years spend ton the San Gabriel School Board—serving over half of her term as School Board president. “In that time, we withdrew from the Alhambra School District, unified San Gabriel’s school district, built a new high school without a bond, and purchased a new school headquarters. Scripps played a large role in my appreciation of architecture. When we built the new Gabrielino High School, I was determined that the schools would be interesting in use of color—which it is.”

After this accomplishment, Nancy didn’t sit still for long. AFter reading an article in the paper about the Los Angeles Civil Grand Jury, Nancy decide to take a closer look. “I like the sound of it,” she says. “So I applied and interviewed with the judges. Then, right out of the blue, a Superior Court judge called me, said he like my resume,and asked to sponsor me for the position on the Grand Jury. There are nine women and fourteen men on the Civil Grand Jury. I am the head of the Health and Human Services committee. We’re the watchdogs for the public. WE interview city and government officials. And although we have no power, we can put pressure on the press and get rte attention o of the Board of Supervisors.”

As diverse as her accomplishments and interests are, there is a common thread to Nancy’s work. “you must have strong convictions on social action needs and be prepared to serve when opportunities open, ” she says. “I tied it back to Ellen Browning Scripps’ statement on educating women. She believed you have to have a responsibility to your community and to your world. Scripps helped us to analyze a problem and help solve it. REsidence hall living taught us to get along and appreciate all people. In the earlier days, as well as now, Scripps helped us to be strong, resourceful women.”