A Special In Memoriam
On Tuesday, May 6, the Halliburton bells tolled on campus in memory of President Emeritus James "Jim" Harold Daughdrill, Jr., who passed away at age 80 on Saturday, May 3, surrounded by his children and his wife of 59 years, Libby.
The Daughdrills arrived at Rhodes in 1973. When Dr. Daughdrill retired in 1999, he left behind a legacy of fiscal conservation that had restored the college to financial health. “Jim Daughdrill created the culture of fiscal discipline that continues to serve Rhodes so well today,” says President William E. Troutt. Under Daughdrill’s auspices, a $7 million endowment grew to $225 million; $3 million in deferred gifts became $100 million; and a $2 million debt load was replaced by an $8 million surplus. Additionally, the Annual Fund grew to $2.5 million and the college experienced 25 years of balanced budgets.
Dr. Daughdrill drew from his background as a businessman and minister. He became president of his family firm, Kingston Mills Inc. in Cartersville, GA, at the age of 25. Six years later, he was called to the ministry and attended Columbia Theological Seminary, from which he graduated magna cum laude with a master of divinity degree. He served at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, AR, for three years and was named secretary of stewardship for the Presbyterian Church USA in 1970. At age 38, he became the 18th president of what was then known as Southwestern at Memphis.
His tenure brought great change to the physical footprint of the campus. Facilities erected during his years here are Bryan Campus Life Center and Alburty Swimming Pool, Buckman Hall, Hassell Hall, Blount Hall, Robinson Hall, Spann Place, Falls Austin Administrative Services Building (demolished to make way for Paul Barret, Jr. Library), and the Physical Plant building. Nine campus buildings underwent extensive renovations, and McCoy Theatre and Dorothy C. King Hall were purchased and renovated.
It was during Dr. Daughdrill’s administration that many now-familiar campus institutions originated. The Clarence Day Outstanding Teaching Awards for faculty, the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Award, the Rhodes Athletics Hall of Fame, the Charles E. Diehl Society, the Benefactors Circle, and the Bellingrath Society represent just a few.
But perhaps Dr. Daughdrill’s most noted change to the college was its renaming in 1984. Afterward, he said, “I didn’t know what the name change would be, but I knew we couldn’t build an international reputation on a college with the name Southwestern at Memphis.” And so several months of campus-wide input and committee meetings took place, leading to the recommendation to name the college after Peyton Nalle Rhodes, its president from 1949 to 1965.
For all his professional achievements, there was, of course, the personal side of Dr. Daughdrill, too. In the spring 1999 issue of Rhodes magazine, articles covering his retirement included such tidbits as: he cut his own hair; he wore only gold ties, black knee socks, and black oxford shoes; he rose early on weekday mornings to meditate; and he enjoyed golf, bird-watching, collecting model Volkswagen Beetles, and collecting religious art when traveling.
Family was very important to Dr. Daughdrill, and no remembrance of him would be complete without mention of his high school sweetheart and wife, Elizabeth “Libby” Anne Gay Daughdrill, and his three children, James Harold “Hal” Daughdrill III ’77 and wife, Vicki; Risha Hoover ’79 and her husband, David Hoover ’79; and Gay Boyd ’90. In addition, he leaves behind six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and a sister, Mrs. Brooks W. Lansing.
“The Rhodes community will always be grateful for Jim Daughdrill’s leadership and devotion to our college,” says President Troutt.
Words of Tribute
Allen Boone ’71
Jim Daughdrill was a remarkable man and transformative leader. He was blessed with a keen intellect and compassionate spirit and served Rhodes faithfully for 26 years as president. He devoted his life to service, his faith, and his family. I was so fortunate to have known and worked with him.
Jim could sense the difference between what was right and what was not better than any man I’ve ever met. While he was on our board at Buckman, I put him in charge of our environmental committee. He said, “But Bob, I do not know anything about chemistry.” “That may be,” I replied, “but you do know how to sniff out which is the best way for us to go to improve our environmental standing as a company.” His vision of the future was always one that you wanted to be part of, and he was not afraid to take on a difficult assignment. Turning around the financial picture at Rhodes was a major accomplishment. He loved to have fun. And, he loved to eat. I will never forget a trip our board made to a Club Med in Brazil as a retreat. I think he ate everything on every buffet table that he could see.
Deeply spiritual, genuinely sensitive, Jim Daughdrill combined, with infinite grace, the toughness of a disciplined leader and administrator with the velvet touch of a Southern gentleman and consummate salesman. He shared, in equal measure, tears of compassion and good-natured laughter. I have met few of his kind.
Jim Daughdrill was a Christian gentleman. We are all familiar with his accomplishments leading Rhodes to become one of the very best of the liberal arts colleges in the nation. During his 26 years as president, he persevered through some difficult times with inadequate finances in the early years and, later, with tenure issues. Through all of the contentious years, he provided a foundation that brought the college to what it is today. Under his leadership, the quality of education improved significantly and the standing of the college in the city and nation was greatly enhanced. Many leaders in other fields were drawn to serve Rhodes because of Jim’s winsome personality, his obvious success, and his ability to persuade others to the high calling of serving the college. He was the very best college president in America. I was honored to serve as his chairman.
Ever devoted to Rhodes, Jim Daughdrill was a visionary and an inspiring leader who brought out the best in those who had the privilege of working for him. I loved that he looked you in the eye when he spoke to you and that he cared about what you had to say, no matter whether you were a titan of business or a groundskeeper. I loved that he stood by his convictions and took the tough path when necessary. I loved that he was strong and decisive, yet easily moved to tears by life′s tender moments. I loved that he was passionate about the things and people he loved, and he loved no one more than his wife and family.
Art Rollins ’81, P’13
What a great man. His genuine concern, enthusiasm, southern charm, and quick wit made for a formidable skill set! I knew Jim peripherally as a student at Rhodes from ’77 to ’81, but later in the mid 1990s our paths began to cross more frequently as my level of support for the college increased. Jim pulled me aside at a Diehl dinner in 1997 or so and asked if I would consider joining the Rhodes Board. His way, his style, the sense of great work to be done were so sincere and flattering that, of course, I was speechless. I thanked him and was humbled by this great man. I joined the board in 1998 and will finish my second term in spring 2015. Even after his retirement in 1999 we stayed in touch. His weekly devotionals continue, even through today, to remind me of his many higher callings in life. I count it as a blessing in my life to have crossed paths with Jim Daughdrill and sweet Libby!
Wayne Steele Sharp ’75
Jim Daughdrill had that rare combination of kind and fair, but tough when he needed to be. Even as a student in the early 1970s, I always felt like Rhodes was in good hands with President Daughdrill. When I came back 20 years later as a trustee, my admiration and respect for him only grew. He loved Rhodes College and had the intelligence and the heart to steer it in the right directions. I feel very fortunate to have known him.
John Sites ’74
Jim Daughdrill, with his perfect complement First Lady Libby, made an indelible impact on Rhodes. His presidency marked the beginning of the resurgence of the Rhodes College brand—indeed, even the name of the college was changed through his efforts. Jim’s brand of leadership—a merger of business acumen with divinely inspired virtues—made for a powerfully motivating presidency that has shaped thousands of lives. Not all bought into all of his policies, but the success engendered by his policies lifted everyone. His interpersonal relationships were uplifting for me not only as a student but also as a trustee. He was inspirational and fun. I am reminded of the words of Aquinas when I reflect on Jim: “The goodness of grace in a single soul is greater than the material good of the entire universe.”