Barry McNamara  |  Published March 28, 2024

True Grit

Award-winning alumnus Trent Rains ’17 a HON ‘champion,’ thanks in part to lessons learned at Monmouth.

LOOK FAMILIAR? This photo of Trent Rains from his Fighting Scot playing days is part of the hallway mural of action shots o... LOOK FAMILIAR? This photo of Trent Rains from his Fighting Scot playing days is part of the hallway mural of action shots on the lower level of the Huff Athletic Center.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Spend enough time on Interstate-80 in Iowa – as Trent Rains ’17 has – and you’re bound to come across a sign for the birthplace museum of John Wayne in Winterset, just outside of Des Moines. Wayne was born there in 1907 and, six decades later, he won an Oscar for his lead role in the movie True Grit.

A business development manager with HON, Rains can relate to the tenacity required by Wayne’s legendary character, U.S. marshal Rooster Cogburn.

It also takes him back to a talk he attended at Monmouth. As a senior, Rains was in the audience when alumnus Kunal Kapoor ’97, the CEO of Morningstar, gave the annual Wendell Whiteman Memorial Lecture.

“We’ve studied the attributes that successful people have at Morningstar,” Kapoor said that day on the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium stage. “One of them is ‘grit’ – the notion of seeing things through. What we’ve noticed is that people out of big-name colleges don’t have it, but liberal arts graduates tend to.”

“I work hand-in-hand with the distributors that sell our product. We make sure the dealers are taken care of. There are 61 of me throughout the U.S. I cover Iowa and Nebraska, and I-80 has become my office.” – Trent Rains


“What he said really stuck with me, and I try to embody that at HON,” said Rains, who was based in San Antonio for four years but is now headquartered in Des Moines.

HON CHAMPION: Rains, second from left, is pictured receiving his award for being a standout business development manager at... HON CHAMPION: Rains, second from left, is pictured receiving his award for being a standout business development manager at his company.It seems to be working. Rains recently received the HON Champion Award, voted on annually by peers and presented to an employee who best represents what it means to be a HON business development manager.

“I work hand-in-hand with the distributors that sell our product,” said Rains, when asked to describe his position. “We make sure the dealers are taken care of. There are 61 of me throughout the U.S. I cover Iowa and Nebraska, and I-80 has become my office.”


Using grit at Monmouth

Grit is also a trait Rains exhibited at Monmouth, using hard work and relationships with his professors and football coaches to get the most out of his education.

“My first class was ‘Introduction to Liberal Arts’ with (anthropology professor) Petra Kuppinger,” said Rains. “It was super insightful for me. I got introduced to what a liberal arts school was all about. There were students in that class from Saudi Arabia, California, Illinois, Florida. We all stayed tight throughout my time at Monmouth. I really enjoyed it.”

Rains started to get serious about being a business major through an economics class with professor Mike Connell, and he also spoke highly of Connell’s colleagues, including Tom Prince (who is Rains’ uncle) and Dick Johnston.

“Professor Prince would ask, ‘How do you increase your core competency? How does it get better?’” said Rains. “That’s something I try to incorporate now in my work.

“Professors like Connell and Dicky J would take me aside and help me understand things better. And I spent a lot of hours in the library. School did not come easily for me. … The support I received at Monmouth makes me proud to be an alum.” – Trent Rains


“But those hallway conversations we’d have were important to me, too. Professors like Connell and Dicky J would take me aside and help me understand things better. And I spent a lot of hours in the library. School did not come easily for me. I’d ask for help continually, and all the professors were very hands-on with me – really, with anybody who asked for help. The support I received at Monmouth makes me proud to be an alum.”

And his department is proud of him, noting that Rains used grit and other attributes to graduate cum laude.


Football was an added rush

The hallways and offices of the Center for Science and Business were an important classroom for Rains, and so was April Zorn Memorial Stadium, where Rains played football for four years, the latter two with Chad Braun as his head coach.

“Coach Braun is definitely going to hold a special place for me for the rest of my life,” said Rains. “He was such a great mentor, and he’s such a great guy – just the way he handled himself. He was such a great example. He placed a major emphasis on academics, no exceptions.”

Rains’ time as a Fighting Scot was career prep, in a sense.

“Coach Braun is definitely going to hold a special place for me for the rest of my life. He was such a great mentor, and he’s such a great guy. … He placed a major emphasis on academics, no exceptions.” – Trent Rains


“I learned through discipline, and I treated football like a job – having a main priority and making sure it gets done,” he said.

A torn meniscus derailed his freshman season after a promising start, but Rains rallied as a sophomore to rush for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns, earning first team All-Midwest Conference honors.

“I have a lot of fond memories playing with those guys,” he said. “The highlight of it all was being named a captain my senior year,” as the Scots reached the NCAA playoffs.


Deciding on Monmouth

With his family connection to Prince, Monmouth College wasn’t a completely new idea to Rains as a high school student in Lakeland, Florida.

Still, he said, “I didn’t fully consider it until my senior year, as it was one of the schools that recruited me. I visited in February, and that was the first time I ever saw snow.”

Despite the contrast in weather, Rains said, “It felt like home. It just clicked. I thought, ‘This is where I want to go.’ I visited other schools after Monmouth, but I didn’t have that feeling when I was on those state school campuses. It was a very easy decision.”

And a decision he recommends that others consider.

“I’ll forever be an advocate for Monmouth College,” he said.

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