Alumni Reflections


Matt Averill (’09)
“History, in all places and in all times, has moved and educated people.  And, it has made them struggle with their own personal stories  and narratives, it has made them grasp the meaning of the world, and it has forced them to try to place their own peoples and stories within the historical narrative. At Rhodes, understanding these historical processes takes place in a nuanced, exciting, and meaningful way. And still, as I am here telling you this story in Buenos Aires, Argentina (where I am trying to teach English, trying to play soccer on a low-level professional team, playing music, trying to meet new people...and, of course, trying to hear new stories), I am beginning to and will continue to understand the importance of history not just as an important focus of study, but as something that was given to me and made better by the History Department at Rhodes.”

Matt Averill is currently living and working in Argentina through the Connecting Schools to the World program.

Dougal Cameron (’09)
"Throughout this first year at my job with the Federal Reserve, I have been often commended for my "writing" ability. And judging from my high school senior year term paper, any ability I now possess is exclusively a product of the History Department at Rhodes. . . . Starting in September or so, I will be authoring and circulating a small economic publication out of the Houston office. This opportunity--and indeed my job--confirms the value of a liberal arts degree. Thank you again for a wonderful experience across the latter three years of my time at Rhodes."

Dougal Cameron works for the Federal Reserve.

Ashley Cundiff (’08)
“Beyond setting me on my life path, my Rhodes history education provided a strong background in research, public speaking, and knowledge of the theory and process of historical inquiry. Moreover, the faculty in the Rhodes Department of History are extremely generous with their knowledge in the field and in securing futures for their students, whether in academic history or other fields.  

Because I decided to conduct graduate work in history, I have gained a greater appreciation for both my education and mentors in the Rhodes Department of History, as I was prepared to thrive in my first year of graduate school and, I hope, in the years to come.” 

Ashley Cundiff is currently pursuing graduate study in women’s and gender history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  She plans to pursue a career in academia.

John Bordelon (’06)
“I have found that most knowledge of history, e.g. the role of Martin v. Hunter′s Lessee (1816) in shaping our federal system, has thus far been only marginally relevant to daily life. Fortunately, Rhodes history professors inspired much deeper lessons: to ponder problems of the past as they relate to the present, to listen to the voice of the defeated, to craft an argument, to dissect an argument, etc. In sum, they taught us to think.

The Rhodes History Department faculty challenged us not only to analyze but to create scholarship - they facilitated a truly ideal learning environment. As an educator, my vision is to translate such a rich learning experience to our young men at CBHS."

John Bordelon is the Director of Admissions at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis.

Hailey Hopper David (’06)  
“I often apply the skills I learned as a history major, whether it be in doing research, understanding precedent, developing an argument, or writing a brief. In learning these skills, my history major gave me something much more valuable than a knowledge of past people and places – it gave me the ability to discover anything I desired.” 

A graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law, Hailey Hopper David is an attorney in Jackson, Tennessee.

Jeffrey Knowles (’06)
“It was through the coursework, independent research, and without a doubt, the close contact with my professors that led to a passion for urban history that set me on the career path I have today. While at Rhodes I immersed myself in the history of people who had a transformational impact on the development of Memphis. Now as a city planner in Philadelphia, I think about how to connect people with their environment and empower them to write a new history for parts of the city that have long been neglected. A Rhodes degree has proven time and time again to be an invaluable tool in understanding how past actions have created current circumstances and how everyday people can both create and solve problems.”

Jeffrey Knowles is a city planner in Philadelphia.

Ashley Wood Kitchell (’05)
“To have studied history in a city with such a rich cultural and historical significance such as Memphis was truly an honor. To have done so at Rhodes with its stimulating coursework and engaging professors was a life-changing experience.  I look back with increasing gratitude.”

Ashley Kitchell works in real estate sales in Tampa, Florida.

Robert Edgecombe (’04)
“I used to joke that majoring in history meant minoring in everything. Studying history really involves getting a taste for virtually every academic discipline through a powerful, challenging, and instructive lens. History contextualizes the past’s varied stages, packing the vast spectra of human achievement and fallibility, agency and inevitability, progress and reoccurrence into critical baggage that its students take with them all their lives.”

Robert Edgecombe, who worked to rebuild his hometown of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is currently pursuing graduate study in city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Ben Houston (’99)
“Studying history at Rhodes was a deeply enriching experience because of the first-rate teachers I had. They taught me to respect the past while analyzing it critically, and they were both supportive and demanding in helping me grow as a thinker and writer. It was a powerful environment for learning.” 

Ben Houston, who received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Florida, is a lecturer in modern United States history at Newcastle University in England.

Jennifer S. Kirkpatrick (’96)
"I chose history as my major at Rhodes after careful deliberation. During the course of my studies, I was working on a project that involved an analysis of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the immense legacy he left through his work in the civil rights movement. While students at many schools would read books about Dr. King or review movies about him, we actually spoke with a local Memphis resident who had been with Dr. King at the Lorraine Motel on the day he died, and showed us photographs that he took that day. Being able to speak with one of Dr. King’s contemporaries and reviewing private photographs affected me in ways that a mere historical account in a textbook never could. I’ve never forgotten that day or the impact my education in history has provided me.  It’s given me perspective, and the knowledge that I’m a part of something so much greater than myself. While my education in history provided me with an outstanding foundation for my later studies in law school, more than anything it instilled in me a desire to learn more about the world around me." 

A graduate of Tulane Law School, Jennifer Kirkpatrick is an attorney in New Orleans.

Richie Trenthem (’93)
“I work in information technology, a field known for its obsessive futurism. I’ve found that viewing the technology landscape as a historian, recognizing that everything we have has grown from something before, is invaluable. Sometimes it’s the only way to make sense of what I see in this field today.”

Richie Trenthem is Associate Director for Systems and Networks in Information Technology Services at Rhodes College.