Graduation at Rhodes is truly a wonderful, poignant, and meaningful celebration. Viewing this festive ceremony on May 11 brought back wonderful memories of my own graduation. But this year’s commencement had new meaning for me because my son, Josh, will enter Rhodes in August as a member of the Class of 2017. As the faculty filed past me adorned in a colorful array of gowns, hoods, tams, and the occasional baseball cap proclaiming a favorite team, I found myself imagining my own son’s graduation four years into the future. I thought of how incredibly fortunate Josh is to have the opportunity to spend four years learning from these brilliant, amazing, and accomplished individuals, for our faculty truly define the "Rhodes experience."
As I stood next to Dr. Diehl’s statue watching the graduation procession, I saw members of our music faculty—Dr. Bill Skoog, Dr. Carole Choate Blankenship ’85—and thought of former Rhodes music faculty David Ramsey ’61 and Tony Garner ’65, in whose memory a concert was performed on April 28 by the Rhodes Mastersingers Chorale and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Both men had a profound impact on their students. According to The Reverend Dorothy Sanders Wells ’82, Rhodes music major and soloist in the tribute concert, "I can safely say that I would not be the person I am today had I not had the opportunity to study with both of them at Rhodes College." Former Rhodes Singer Kimberly Longmire McDaniel ’80 says, "I do not ever sing without being reminded of their excellent mentoring. Even after 35 years, their leadership still reminds me that every voice counts."
Members of the Biology Department filed past and I was reminded of something Dane Ciolino ’85, the Alvin R. Christovich Distinguished Professor of Law, Loyola School of Law, once told me, "The night before I left for Rhodes, one of my father’s friends gave me some of the best advice I ever got: ‘Find the best professors and take them no matter what they teach.’ Although I was a political science major, that advice put me in all of Prof. Terry Hill’s upper-level biology courses long after I decided to go to law school rather than medical school. I became a student of great teaching at Rhodes, and later, a teacher myself."
Professors from the International Studies Department walked by and I thought of my own international studies professor and advisor, David Likes. "The Colonel," as he was affectionately referred to by his students, built a nationally recognized program. By doing so, he exposed his students to the greatest minds and scholars in the field, who travelled from around the globe to Memphis to lecture here. His classes were more than lessons in international relations, they were life lessons. As is true of the Rhodes professors today, the Colonel was a teacher, advisor, and counselor who inspired us to become more than we imagined.
The Colonel’s legacy at Rhodes will be remembered at a special reunion of international studies majors on Saturday, Oct. 26, during Homecoming/Reunion Weekend.