The Students' President

a red bow tie with the Rhodes College crest patterned on it
A Rhodes College bow tie

It is so hard to say goodbye. Songs have been written about it. Tears are wept over it. In the right instances, tributes flow. And that is what our spring issue is all about. Our tribute to a president whose actions have shaped the college since 1999. That’s a long time.

Rhodes has had four major presidents. Each contributed his own brand of change. Dr. Charles Diehl changed the location of the college, boldly moving it to Memphis from Clarksville, TN, to improve our access to potential students. Dr. Peyton Nalle Rhodes changed the reputation of the college, taking it from its role as a genteel Presbyterian college to a more dynamic educational institution. Dr. James Daughdrill, Jr. changed the name of the college, positioning us as a quality higher education opportunity for an even broader range of students. Dr. William E. Troutt, in his 18 years at the helm, changed the face of the college.

In doing so, he held firmly to the exacting standards set by his predecessors. Yet, wherever you look, you see a greatly enhanced Rhodes. As we began compiling information for this tribute issue, we developed a list of his accomplishments. It was seven pages long, single-spaced. The list includes numerous learning opportunities for students in partnership with some of the city’s best-known businesses—FedEx, St. Jude, the Memphis Zoo. It includes scholarships, new buildings, renovated facilities, updated interiors and labs, and a little item called “The Rhodes Vision.”

Developed over Dr. Troutt’s first few years as he and his wife, Carole, got to know the campus community, the Rhodes Vision, and its four strategic imperatives, has been his guiding principle. At its heart is the student experience—access, learning, engagement, inspiration. Nothing on that seven-page list of accomplishments goes untouched by at least one of these. Accolades aside, Dr. Troutt is just as happy to be known simply as the “students’ president.” It is in that spirit that we honor him on these pages. 

With goodbyes come change all around. And so, we bid farewell to our students’ president, our bow-tie president, the only president many of us have served. We wish him well in setting out a new vision for himself and for Carole.