The Campaign for Rhodes
By Rhodes College President William E. Troutt
One of the great pleasures of serving as president is engaging in conversation with alumni and hearing how their Rhodes experiences shaped their lives. Whether a member of the class of 2014 or a Golden Lynx, alumni repeatedly reference the challenging yet supportive environment provided by their professors. How faculty inspire students to reach their full potential remains the core of our excellence at Rhodes. They are more than dynamic teachers and more than accomplished scholars. They are gifted teacher-scholars who are totally committed to the success of their students.
I understand how powerful the influence of Rhodes faculty can be, as I also had a life-changing moment in the company of a Rhodes professor. It happened many years ago as an undergraduate student at the college I attended. It was late in the semester, and a few other students and I were invited to have dinner and dialogue with one of my college’s former English professors, Jack Farris—the poet, novelist, and playwright who shaped the lives of so many Southwestern students.
After a couple of hours of storytelling and great conversation, Professor Farris asked us about our hopes and dreams for the future. As he turned to me, I remember for the first time responding with hopes for a career in higher education. Until that time my answer had always been to become a minister. Reflecting on that important encounter over the years, I cannot help wondering how many other exceptional Rhodes professors have inspired students to self-reflect and find their true life passion. Whether it’s walking across campus, visiting a classroom, or sharing a meal in the refectory, one can see how faculty-student interactions are so special and why they are cherished for a lifetime.
This issue profiles a few of our current faculty and how they motivate our students to be their best. You will read alumni narratives about the life-changing moments with their memorable professors. Beth Simpson, class of ’58, learned about deep compassion for others from Dr. Laurence Kinney. Linda Odom, class of ’84, has practiced law for 26 years due to Professor Rodney Grunes’ secret mission to get her a full scholarship to law school. Dr. J. Patrick Rhamey, Jr., class of ’06, says of Dr. Andrew Michta and Dr. Steve Wirls, “I hope that I might be able to instill the same love for political science in my students that they instilled in me.”
We continue to work diligently to recruit and retain the very best faculty. Through our Campaign for Rhodes, 12 new faculty chairs and professorships have been created. Many of you have also established funds to support innovative faculty teaching and research projects, as well as student fellowships that ensure that our students are able to work in depth with their faculty mentors.
We must maintain our commitment to supporting faculty teaching and scholarly pursuits—it is with this support that special faculty-student learning opportunities and relationships are fostered and sustained long after graduation. My thanks to all of you who are investing in our faculty, who remain the heart of the Rhodes experience.