President′s Message: Autumn Reflections

By President William E. Troutt


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Fall is my favorite season at Rhodes. It brings the excitement of new beginnings, the pleasure of greeting returning faculty members and welcoming new ones.

It is always inspiring to hear how our students spent their summers. Three groups lived on campus this year—the Rhodes Service Scholars, the participants in the Rhodes St. Jude Summer Plus program and the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies fellows. The St. Jude group had the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research with world-renowned scientists. The Service Scholars’ projects covered the gamut—from teaching English to Hispanic prison inmates and Sudanese immigrants to assisting with a day camp at the Stax Museum and working with seniors at the Hope and Healing Center. Institute fellows delved into everything from the role of the Memphis Sears building in the city’s rise as a distribution hub to the relationship of soul music and civil rights.

Others went farther afield, participating in academic and service endeavors all over the globe. Some did language immersion in Ecuador, Russia or Spain, others participated in British Studies at Oxford and some traveled south to work in the Honduras service learning program.

I always look forward to getting acquainted with our first-year students, a process that will take a little longer this semester. The Class of 2008 is our largest ever, boosting the population of our student body to more than 1,600 for the first time in the history of this college. There was no sacrifice in quality for quantity. They bring most impressive academic and leadership credentials.

Rhodes students distinguish themselves in so many ways, and I believe they leave here not only wiser but with values that are stronger from being discussed, debated and defended. This dialogue is one of the supreme values of a liberal arts education. Most of our students also take advantage of opportunities to broaden their perspectives by engaging in community service. They (and you) tell me consistently that the combination of brilliant classroom teaching and outside-the-gate experience results in a life-changing education.

I believe that is true. Rhodes provides an educational experience like no other college or university I know of. Where is there a better college to develop both the head and the heart? This conviction steels my determination to ensure that every qualified student who wishes to attend this great college can do so. Reaching this goal is absolutely critical to our success in achieving the Rhodes Vision. If we only enroll those who can afford to attend, we cannot become the college we envision. If we become solely a college for the economically privileged, we can never claim success.

As I told our new students and faculty at Opening Convocation, I am confident that they could not have chosen a better college nor a better time to join us. With superbly talented and dedicated faculty and students, we have begun an extraordinary year, the beginning of a great journey into learning and life.