Campus News


Commencement 2006: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award is bestowed annually on two graduating seniors and a nonstudent who have selflessly given to others and the college. Graduates Becky Saleska and Ben Carroll and professor emeritus of history James Lanier were this year’s recipients.

President of Rhodes Student Government and a student representative to the Rhodes Board of Trustees, Saleska implemented two literacy programs as a Rhodes Service Fellow and brought two neighborhood schools into the college’s outreach network. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board and Omicron

Delta Kappa, she was also elected Ms. Rhodes and is in the college Hall of Fame.

Also a member of the college Hall of Fame, Mortar Board and ODK, Carroll served on the Honor Council four years and was elected Mr. Rhodes. He was a tireless volunteer at the student-run soup kitchen and involved in several campus  programs.

Jim Lanier, who retired this year after almost 40 years on the Rhodes faculty, will continue to serve the college in its new Crossroads to Freedom project, a digital archive that will house historical documents and oral histories of the civil rights movement in Memphis and the Delta. He played a key role in establishing the American Studies minor at Rhodes.

Distinguished Service Medal

The Distinguished Service Medal is presented to those who exemplify able and selfless service to the college. Dean Robert Llewellyn was this year’s recipient. Llewellyn retired this year after 37 years at Rhodes as assistant professor of philosophy and later, dean of the college.

Churchill, Strickland Receive Honorary Degrees

John Churchill ’71, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and Sid Strickland ’68, dean of graduate students and vice president for education at Rockefeller University, received honorary doctor of humanities degrees.

Phi Beta Kappa Award

The Phi Beta Kappa Award is given to the graduating senior who exemplifies the highest qualities of scholarship, achievement, creativity and commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. This year’s recipient, Sandy Keller, earned a double major in psychology and French. A Burch Service Scholar, she received several academic awards, and her research in psychology was presented at an international academic conference.

Day Awards Go to Barr, Gu

Dr. Tina Barr and Dr. Ming Dong Gu are the 2006 recipients of Rhodes’ highest faculty honors for outstanding teaching and research, presented April 28 at the college’s annual Awards Convocation. Barr, an associate professor of English and director of the Rhodes Creative Writing Program, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching, which includes a $10,000 honorarium. Gu, associate professor of modern languages, received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research and/or Creative Activity, which includes a $6,000 honorarium. Both awards, first given in 1981, were established by Memphis businessman Clarence Day ’52 and are provided by the Day Foundation.

The Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching is given to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated excellence in teaching over the previous three years as determined by the assessments of students and colleagues, the effective use of imaginative and creative pedagogy and motivating students to embrace a life of continuing study.

Barr has published in numerous journals including the American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Antioch Review and Paris Review. Her book of poems The Gathering Eye won Tupelo Press Editors’ Prize for Best First Book of Poetry. In addition, she has received fellowship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Virginia
Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony.

Barr, who holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, M.F.A. from Columbia University and M.A. and Ph.D. from Temple University, joined the Rhodes faculty in 1997.

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity is presented to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated that research and/or creative activity is an integral part of his or her vocation and who has published or  performed outstanding works over the previous three years that have gained significant scholarly recognition or creative acclaim.

Gu’s research interests include Chinese language, literature and culture. Since the early 1980s, he has published articles on various topics including linguistic theory, semiotics, comparative studies of Western and Chinese literary theory, in-depth studies of authors and analyses of specific works of literature and philosophy. He has published two monographs and his work has appeared in several journals.

Gu has been a cultural adviser to the China exhibit at the Memphis Zoo and works with an after-school Chinese education program at White Station High School in Memphis.

Gu, who holds M.A. degrees from the University of Kent, England and the University of Wisconsin, Madison as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, joined the Rhodes faculty in 1999.

Charlotte Borst To Become Rhodes Provost

Charlotte G. Borst, dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of history at Union College in Schenectady, NY, has been named provost at Rhodes. She assumes her new appointment in July.

Known nationally for her research and publications in the field of women’s health, Borst has served as dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of history at Union College for the past five years. As dean, she was responsible for curriculum offerings; faculty recruitment, development and evaluation; academic staffing; and faculty research. In addition, she was charged with the oversight of three major building projects for science and engineering, music, and visual arts.

Prior to her tenure at Union College, Borst was chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University and associate professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; M.A. from Tufts University; and B.A. from Boston University.

The Rhodes Provost Search Committee, chaired by Daniel Arce, the Robert D. McCallum Professor of Economics, also included: Rhodes trustee Dunbar Abston; Marshall Boswell, associate professor of English; Carol Casey, associate dean for Student Affairs; Cookie Ewing, Theater Department chair; Andy Greer ’07, president of Rhodes Student Government; Gary Lindquester, associate professor of biology; Gail Streete, the W.J. Millard Professor of Religious Studies; and Russ Wigginton, vice president for College Relations.

Jaslow Named Health Professions Advising Director

Dr. Alan Jaslow, associate professor of biology, has been named director of health professions advising for Rhodes students. In this new position, he will work with faculty, other student service offices, community partners and alumni to put in place a comprehensive advising environment for students interested in all health professions and veterinary medicine.

“Putting resources into this new office shows the commitment Rhodes has to our students who are working toward medical school and other health professions. More than one-fifth of our students are currently investigating careers in the health professions,” says Jaslow. “Having one person coordinate the resources for all professions will make it easier for students to get information and compare different career options. I’m happy to say that I will have the help of an able faculty committee who will advise me in this effort.”

Jaslow will gather and disseminate information needed for Rhodes students to meet liberal arts educational objectives and complete requirements for advanced study. His responsibilities include coordinating programming, communicating with professional school deans about their programs and renewing contacts with Rhodes alumni in the health professions to answer questions that current students might have. He will also help students prepare application and recommendation packets for advanced study.

Rhodes has a long history of students going on to health professions. The acceptance rate to medical school of Rhodes graduates from 2000-2005 was twice the national average reported in 2005. In addition, Rhodes students have a long history of community involvement and service in the health sector, a plus when they are deciding on a career and seeking acceptance to professional schools.

Although medicine has been the most common health career sought by Rhodes students, some have gone on to study pharmacy, physical therapy, dentistry, optometry and veterinary medicine or become nurse practitioners or physicians’ assistants. Rhodes graduates also pursue health administration and clinical psychology degrees.

“These students will continue to be advised by economics professor Dee Birnbaum and psychology professor Anita Davis, respectively,” adds Jaslow. “There are many other fields such as osteopathic medicine, podiatry and audiology that I want to bring to their attention as well.”

Jaslow’s research interests include vertebrate morphology and animal communication. He has been studying panda vocalization at the Memphis Zoo, where he is a research associate. At Rhodes, Jaslow received the 1989 Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity. Before coming to Rhodes in 1984, he was a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago, Department of Anatomy and Organismal Biology. Jaslow holds a B.S. degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and M.S. in zoology and Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Students Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Biology majors Adam Bohnert ’07 and Sarah Mercer ’08 have been named Goldwater Scholars for 2006-07. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded 323 scholarships for the academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States.

Established by Congress in 1986 to honor Arizona Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, the program provides awards to highly qualified college students who intend to pursue careers in science, mathematics and engineering. Scholarships provide funding up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Students are nominated by their institutions based on their potential for scientific research.

Bohnert received the Award for Excellence in first-year biology during the 2003-04 academic year. Last summer, he worked as an intern in the deep-sea microbiology laboratory of Dr. Costantino Vetriani of Rutgers University, and has assisted in designing the laboratories for the Introduction to Environmental Sciences course to be taught at Rhodes in the fall.

He is a member of the men’s tennis team and Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and has served on Rhodes’ Social Regulations Council. His future plans are to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology and teach at a research university as well as conduct microbiological field research.

Mercer received the Jack U. Russell Award for Outstanding Work in first-year mathematics as well as the Award for Excellence in first year biology. She is a math tutor at Cypress Middle School and a research fellow in the fungal genetics laboratory of Dr. Terry Hill and Dr. Darlene Loprete at Rhodes.

In addition, she plays on the Rhodes intramural tennis team and was a member of the Search Advisory Council. Mercer plans to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics and conduct research focused on increasing our overall understanding of the human genome.

Alumnus Establishes Taylor Scholarships

Charles Robertson ’65, chairman of NanoDrop Technologies Inc. in Wilmington, DE, has created the Jack H. Taylor Scholarship in Physics at Rhodes. A student of Professor Emeritus of Physics Jack Taylor ’44, who taught at Rhodes from 1956-92, Robertson hopes scholarship recipients will share the enthusiasm for learning that his mentor inspired in him.

Robertson says he benefited from the opportunities to build experimental equipment and develop research ideas with Taylor. After graduating, Robertson pursued a career in physics at DuPont, where he invented several new measurement techniques using optics and other developing technologies. He then established his own highly successful company, NanoDrop Technologies.

Taylor, a World War II Navy veteran and Johns Hopkins Ph.D., was involved in the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile project at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Then, the college’s president, Peyton N. Rhodes, persuaded him to return and serve as chair of the Physics Department. Under Taylor’s leadership, the department flourished, developing special relationships with leading physics laboratories.

The scholarship is valued at up to $15,000 per year based on the qualifications of the recipient and is in addition to any other Rhodes grant or scholarship the student may receive. At least one scholarship will be awarded to a first-year student every year.

Believe It or Not, I’m Walking on Air

A team of five physics students at Rhodes—Kevin Andring ’07, Desmond Campbell ’06, John Janeski ’07, Daniel Keedy ’06 and Sean Quinn ’06—have been awarded flight time in August on a special C-9B NASA aircraft called the “Weightless Wonder.” The students, who will be aboard the aircraft doing a physics experiment they designed for weightless conditions, comprise one of 65 teams selected for NASA’s Reduced Gravity Research Program (

The Rhodes team is developing the experiment in Memphis before going to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston where the flight will take place over the Gulf of Mexico. Teams are responsible for all materials and equipment needed to build and operate their experiments and collect data from them. Training and
flights for Rhodes will be Aug. 10-19.

Two of the college’s physics professors, Brent Hoffmeister and Shubho Banerjee, are supervising the student team.

“The aircraft will fly in a special trajectory so that everything in the aircraft, including the students, will feel weightless for 20-30 seconds. They literally will be able to float around the cabin,” says Hoffmeister. “In addition to floating, students also will experience increased g-forces for parts of the flight. The g-forces are large enough to cause a 150-lb. person to feel like he or she weighs 270 pounds.”

The Reduced Gravity Program was started in 1959 to investigate human and hardware reactions to operating in a weightless environment. The student program began in the late 1990s.

The Rhodes experiment submitted to NASA and selected for the flight is titled “Orbital Dynamics of Electrically Charged Spheres.” The experiment will attempt to orbit an electrically-charged ping-pong ballsized sphere around an oppositely-charged sphere. The orbit will be caused by an electric force between the spheres.

“The electric force is most commonly known as the force responsible for the phenomenon of ‘static cling’ between objects,” says Hoffmeister.

To the knowledge of the Rhodes team, this type of orbit has never been demonstrated on a scale of this size. Data will be collected by video cameras and studied using motion analysis software. The motion will be analyzed to verify that objects can orbit each other using only an electric force. In addition, details of the orbit will be compared to predictions of orbital dynamics equations adapted from theories for gravitational orbits.

Batey Lectures Under Way

Rhodes has established the Batey Lecture Series in honor of Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Richard Batey. A New Testament scholar, Batey retired from Rhodes in July 2005 after a distinguished 40-year career.

Leading off the series in March was Dr. Carl R. Holladay, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of New Testament Studies at Emory University, speaking about “Albert Schweitzer’s Jesus: Crushed by the Wheel of Fate?” Schweitzer, as a young theologian, gained a reputation for his work The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906). Batey’s archaeological research and scholarship explored the
life and times of Jesus.

Holladay’s most recent book is A Critical Introduction to the New Testament (Abingdon Press, 2005). He also is coauthor of Preaching Through the Christian Year A-C; BiblicalExegesis: A Beginner’s Handbook; and Preaching the New Common LectionaryYears A-C.

Singers Perform in England over Spring Break

On the last day of spring break 2006, Claire DuFresne ’09 lugged her suitcase up to third-floor Williford. But thanks to jet lag, her load seemed far heavier than those of other girls, many of whom had spent a week atop sand. DuFresne had just returned from Europe—along with 44 friends.

The Rhodes Singers—DuFresne among them—spent the break touring England and giving seven performances at some of the country’s historic cathedrals, such as St. Paul’s in London. Led by Dr. Tim Sharp, the Singers left March 10 and returned March 19. The group was in for a treat, but England was, too.

Sharp says his favorite performance was the one at Winchester Cathedral because “We were part of the service.” According to Sharp, the Singers toured every cathedral in which they performed to get an “insider’s view.” He especially enjoyed performing particular pieces in the very cathedrals for which they were written. Referring to his students, Sharp continues, “I think they thought it was an awesome experience. They were always on time; in the mornings, there was no lagging behind. And I think that says everyone was enjoying it and didn’t want to miss anything.”

But the Singers did more than exercise their vocal chords and “mind the gap.” Between performances, they went sightseeing (including a trip to Stonehenge), took in shows like “Billy Elliott” and “Mary Poppins”, and—for better or worse—experienced English food.

When the Singers arrived in England, their hotel provided them a meal that is still vivid in DuFresne’s memory: “It was mushroom soup and sandwiches. I think my sandwich was shellfish, but I’m not sure.”

Like any Rhodes professor, Sharp encouraged the students to expand their horizons, including the culinary ones. With a more positive attitude toward the cuisine than DuFresne’s, he adds, “I think they found that they really enjoyed the food.”

Pohlmann Honored by National Mock Trial

Marcus Pohlmann, professor of political science and adviser to the Rhodes Mock Trial team, was one of four people inducted into the newly-established Mock Trial Coaches Hall of Fame at the national championship tournament held in Des Moines, IA, in April. In addition, he has assumed the two-year presidency of the American Mock Trial Association.

Pohlmann joined the Rhodes faculty in 1986. The following year, he began as adviser to the Rhodes Intercollegiate Mock Trial Team, a role he continues to fill. Under his leadership, Rhodes teams have consistently finished in the top five in national championship tournaments, placing first nationally in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Pohlmann has served as chair of the Political Science Department as well as the interdisciplinary Urban Studies program.

College Expands MLK Week Observance

Rhodes expanded its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration this year into a week of events Jan. 16-21 with the theme “In the Spirit of Unity and Service–Remember! Celebrate! Act!”

Events included:

  • Students commemorating the life of the civil rightsleader with reflective pieces and a Candlelight Vigil and Unity March
  • Dr. Luther Ivory, associate professor of religious studies at Rhodes, delivering the keynote address for the celebration. A Memphis native, Ivory is a scholar-preacheractivist who teaches courses on contemporary theology, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the modern civil rights movement
  • Emmy Award-winning film editor and director Jack Sholder on campus discussing the film “King: From Montgomery to Memphis”
  • Paul Rusesabagina, whose story has been featured in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” speaking to an overflow crowd in the McCallum Ballroom in the Bryan Campus Life Center
  • The public participating in a “Spoken Word and Poetry Slam” in Blount Auditorium framed around King’s “I Have A Dream” speech
  • Staging of the Mock Refugee Camp in the Rollow Memorial Avenue of Oaks

Students Present Posters on the Hill

At the invitation of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), associate professor of physics Brent Hoffmeister and three students traveled to Washington, DC, in April for CUR’s Posters on the Hill meeting. The meeting gave undergraduate science students the opportunity to talk with senators and representatives about their research in the form of poster presentations.

“It’s a very special opportunity, and highly competitive. Rhodes was one of only 60 colleges and universities selected nationally,” says Hoffmeister. “The project they presented described our work to develop ultrasonic techniques for the diagnosis of bone diseases.”

The students representing Rhodes were biology major Daniel Keedy ’06 and physics majors David Johnson ’07 and John Janeski ’07.

For more information about the program visit

Remembering Derrick Barton

Derrick Barton, tennis coach at Rhodes from 1954-74, died March 11, 2006, at his home in Memphis. He was 82.

Born in London, Barton was one of the top players in Great Britain by the time he was a teenager. He served in the British Army in World War II. In 1946 and 1947, he played on England’s Davis Cup team, at Wimbledon and in the French Open. He was a lifetime member of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club.

In 1948, he moved to the United States where he coached at Davidson College from 1948-53. He was head teaching professional at the University Club of Memphis for 37 years.

Barton competed in local and regional tennis tournaments well into the 1980s, when he was still able to beat players half his age until slowed by a hip replacement.

In 1999 he was inducted into the Tennessee Tennis Hall of Fame. His tennis court construction company built hundreds of public, club and private tennis courts around the South.

He leaves his wife, Amelia Floyd Barton; two daughters, Margaret Barton Chancey ’71 and Amy Barton Greer; two grandsons; a sister; and a niece.