Paying the Piper: Support for Teaching and Learning at Rhodes

By Daney Daniel Kepple
Photography by Justin Fox Burks


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Loretta Jackson-Hayes, assistant professor of Chemistry

Faculty dedicated to undergraduate teaching is one of Rhodes’ greatest strengths. Alumni from the 1940s to the class of 2008 attest that their Rhodes experience is shaped by our outstanding faculty. Teaching, not limited to the classroom, permeates the campus through regular one-on-one exchanges between faculty and students. The frequent interaction enables faculty to engage students in all aspects of their particular discipline, including their research, and results in lifelong friendships. A primary goal of the Campaign for Rhodes is to ensure that our faculty and staff have the talent, time and resources to inspire and involve our students in meaningful study, research and service. Alumni, parents, foundations and friends clearly recognize the value of faculty contributions, and they have expressed their appreciation through gifts to support specific endeavors.

Most visible is the Paul Barret Jr. Library which has transformed the center of campus and provides a place for faculty and students to plan their collaborations and share news of progress along the way. The renovations and addition to the McCoy Theatre made possible by the Harry B. McCoy Foundation has reinvigorated all of the arts on campus by providing space for theatre faculty to be housed under one roof as well as additional rehearsal space for upcoming performances. In addition to these gifts, alumni, foundations, parents and trustees have provided generous support of the academic program at Rhodes. The gifts and bequests, all aimed at attaining the Rhodes Vision, benefit a wide variety of departments along with an eclectic array of innovations and programs.

The Virginia Ballou McGehee Chair in Muslim-Christian Relations honors an alumna of Rhodes College and aims to enable a student to work closely with an outstanding member of the Rhodes faculty. The funds support a distinguished faculty member’s research and course development as well as the work of a student research associate who can contribute to and benefit from working closely with the faculty member. The current occupant is Professor John Kaltner who says, "In addition to the funding for my research which is, of course, very welcome, the best thing about the chair is that it allows me to work with talented students as a mentor and collaborator. Lars Nelson, a Religious Studies and History double major, is my research assistant this year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him."

The Jameson M. Jones Outstanding Faculty Service Award, also in support of the Rhodes Vision’s Student Learning Imperative, has been endowed by Dr. John Gladney ’74 to continue the tradition of honoring faculty service at Rhodes at Opening Convocation each year.

"Members of the faculty serve Rhodes in many ways that go beyond formal teaching duties and scholarship," notes Gladney, mentioning in particular academic advising and oversight of the academic program. All members of the Rhodes faculty are eligible to receive the award. Nominations are considered by a committee comprising primarily faculty members and members of the Office of Academic Affairs. Recipients have included Professors John Katlner, Tim Huebner and, most recently, Gail Streete.

The Martin-Kragh Faculty Development Fund for Biology and Chemistry was established by parents Steve and Nancy Martin in hope of perpetuating the close learning and working relationship their son Stuart ’08 had working in the laboratory of chemistry professor Loretta Jackson-Hayes.

"When we came for Parents’ Weekend, my son Stuart wanted us to meet one his professors, Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes," Steve Martin recalls. "We were expecting a quick handshake, but we stayed in her lab for nearly an hour listening to her and Stuart describe their research project. I’m sure it is every parent’s dream to see a son or daughter so excited to work on a fascinating project under the direction of a great mentor."

The fund provides support for a chemistry or biology student to conduct research in the laboratory of a faculty mentor.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation established two programs that benefit the Rhodes academic program. The first provides support for faculty in all stages of their careers to grow professionally. Beneficiaries have included professors Tim Huebner and Lynn Zastoupil of the History Department; Jennifer Brady, English; and David Jeter, Chemistry.

The most recent Mellon program provides funding to expand the Environmental Sciences program to a much more broadly defined Environmental Studies program (see story on page 8). The Environmental Sciences program, which appeals to students in Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and Economics, is broadening its focus to include environmental policy and will be attractive to students interested in areas such as Political Science, International Studies, Business or Economics with career interests in environmental law, ethics, politics or economics.

"Emerging from this program, our students can position themselves to be leaders in addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues," says Professor David Kesler, who is chairing the effort.

The program has hired three new postdoctoral fellows, Robert Lustech, Tait Keller and Jennifer Sciubba, who are working with Kesler to implement a variety of interdisciplinary aspects of the program. Lustech also teaches courses in the Anthropology/Sociology Department, Keller in History and Sciubba in International Studies.

The Dr. Iris Annette Pearce Shakespeare Endowment was established through a generous bequest from Dr. Pearce ’42 to support the Student Learning and Engagement Imperatives of the Rhodes Vision. Dr. Pearce had a history of giving to her country and community. She served as a WAVE during World War II, was a fifth-generation physician and a pioneer for women in the field of medicine. She was the first woman resident in internal medicine and the first woman chief resident at John Gaston Hospital in Memphis. She also served as director of the City of Memphis Hospitals. Dr. Pearce had a unique compassion for the poor and underserved. In 1981, she received the prestigious L.M. Graves Memorial Health Award for outstanding contributions to community health care.

Income from her endowed fund will be used to enhance and enrich courses in the Shakespeare Studies program through lectures by visiting scholars, classes offered by actors and directors in residence, conferences, workshops and performances. A portion of the funding will support research by the faculty member holding the position in Shakespeare Studies in the English Department.

Plans for the program are highly interdisciplinary in nature. Collaboration with the Theatre Department will be ongoing, and more innovative partnerships are also planned. Work is under way for a program on Shakespeare and the Environment, in celebration of the new Environmental Studies program, and Shakespeare and Politics is slated for next year.

The Plough Foundation has endowed a chair in Urban Studies to strengthen public education, early childhood development, crime protection, health care and economic development in Shelby County. The chair is held by Professor Mike Kirby, chair of the Urban Studies program.

"This support is gratifying recognition of the important work our students do in the community," Kirby says. "It also encourages us to document Rhodes’ success stories and disseminate the information to other programs and community members. We have begun publication of a Community Journal to accomplish that goal. The first one deals with community policing and has been very well received."

The James T. and Valeria B. Robertson Chair in Biological Science was established by Dr. James Robertson ’53 to support faculty teaching and research in the sciences. The current occupant, Professor Terry Hill, says, "Being the occupant of this chair is a great honor. It’s also much more than that. The funds allow me to travel to international conferences which is quite as important in the sciences as in modern languages and international studies. There are three collaborations that [Chemistry] Professor Darlene Loprete and I are involved in that arose from associations I made at such meetings. There are great things happening in our research that would not be happening without this support."

The Spence Wilson Faculty International Travel Fund was established by the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation in honor of Spence Wilson to enable faculty to conduct research outside the U.S., collaborate with colleagues from throughout the world, travel to retool or expand the curriculum, present papers at international conferences and  take students abroad.

"The Rhodes Vision clearly states the college’s goal is to inspire its graduates to be effective leaders not only in their local communities and professions but in the world," Wilson says. "To achieve that goal of enriching our students’ global perspectives, it is imperative that our faculty have access to international resources and opportunities."

In the first two years since its inception, the fund has provided international experiences to seven faculty members including: Professors Mauricio Cafiero (Chemistry), Eddie Mallot (English), Jeffrey Jackson (History), Gary Lindquester (Biology), Michelle Mattson (Modern Languages), Marsha Walton (Psychology) and Tom McGowan (Anthropology/Sociology).

"I am very grateful to the alumni/ae, foundations, parents and trustees who have underwritten these important programs," says Rhodes president William E. Troutt. "It is a strong affirmation that they understand and appreciate the vital nature of what happens here every day. The Rhodes faculty is second to none and I am delighted that friends of the college are supporting their work."

 



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