A Life of Effective Leadership and Influence

an older white male in academic robing standing wearing a medal to honor him
Dr. William Troutt

Caleb Fowler '18 Pays Tribute to Dr. Troutt

Throughout his 35-year tenure as a college president, Dr. William E. “Bill” Troutt certainly has been both a “doer” and an “influencer” of change and growth. As the 19th president of Rhodes College, he has demonstrated his outstanding ability to promote growth in this institution not only by addressing the issues of the present but also by crafting solutions to those issues that will prepare the college for the trials of tomorrow. Others can say much about the many projects that Dr. Troutt has launched and completed at Rhodes in accordance with that pursuit of inspiring excellence. As a student employee in his office, however, I would like to offer some of my own observations and reflections of a man who has taught me much about what it means to lead and to lead well.

Through working in his office, I have been blessed to have learned directly from conversations with Dr. Troutt and to have observed his behavior in how he leads the institution to which he has devoted 18 years of service. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from him centers on being a reflective leader. Leaders of all sorts get thrown into the fire throughout their tenures; it’s simply a part of the job. Good leaders know how to put out the fires. Truly effective leaders, on the other hand, as I’ve learned from Dr. Troutt, know how to investigate the sources of fires and nip them in the bud. Even the most effective leaders can be caught off guard from time to time, but that’s when a leader’s inner character carries added significance. The strong character of Rhodes’ 19th president, as well as his habit of reflecting on the lessons he has learned, has been of the utmost importance to his guidance of the college into the national spotlight. 

During his tenure at Rhodes College, Dr. Troutt has lived out his own creed that “the real power in leadership lies in [one’s] ability to influence others.” He has shown grace in setbacks, humility in victories, vision in projecting what Rhodes could become, and wisdom in training the students he serves. I, for one, have been positively influenced by his fine leadership. Having trained under such a seasoned leader as Dr. Troutt, I believe that I have become stronger in my leadership abilities and am better prepared to step out into the world and positively influence and serve others. I have changed and grown under his leadership and am grateful for the lessons he has taught me. I hope that even in retirement he is able to positively influence those around him in whatever roles he chooses to play. Thank you for all your hard work, Dr. Troutt. It has made a great difference. 

— By Caleb Lancaster Fowler ’18
Rhodes Student Associate, Office of the President