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Class of 1959 offers toasts to their Southwestern/Rhodes faculty mentors

Members of the Rhodes College Class of 1959 at their 50th Reunion
October 24, 2009

Front row (left to right): Lynn Jones, Betsy Barrett, Truly Mount, Anne Johnson, Princess Hughes Van Hooser, Sissy Jones, Bates Toone, Mary Sharp, Sally Stockley Johnson, Peggy Moffett Zbinden, Peggy Bornman Kaufmann, Nora Buckley, Merelyn Davis Hammett, Nancy Warlick Wooddell, Sandra Andrews Robertson, Sandra Calmer Toenes, Diane Wellford

Back row (left to right): Mike Lupfer, Sara Jean Jackson, Charles Ames, Charles Hammett, Thirza Mobley Sloan, Fyke Farmer, Richard Park, Tom Schrodt, Larry Lacey, Bob Welsh, Walker Wellford, Keith Buckley, June Davidson, Danny Logan, Wade Harrell, Red McMillon, Ed Stock, Joe Sullivan, Bill Hackleman, Mary Alice Master Carrell, J.L. Jerden, Sally Roberds, Bill Weber, Sue Osenbaugh, Williams

At their 50th reunion in October 2009, several members of the class of 1959 offered the following toasts to their Southwestern/Rhodes faculty mentors.

Professor John Quincy Wolf Jr.
Ed Stock ’59

John Quincy Wolf grew up in Arkansas, graduated from Arkansas College (a Presbyterian related institution now known as Lyon College), and held degrees from Vanderbilt (M.A.) and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. He returned to teach at Arkansas College where he met his future wife, Bess, who was a student. Bess’s strong outgoing personality won John Quincy. They were married and soon traveled to Memphis to be on the faculty of Southwestern At Memphis.

My first introduction to Dr. John Quincy Wolf was his wife Bess who was director of Admissions at the college. During my junior year in High School, I came to Memphis for a regional Key Club convention. Key Clubs were sponsored by area Kiwanis Clubs. I met a fellow from north Louisiana who said he was going out to Southwestern to visit, and did I want to come. We traveled by bus from the King Cotton Hotel and had a delightful visit and tour of the campus coordinated by Bess Wolf. I can now see how she “caught” Dr. Wolf.

In August I announced to my mother that I was going up early to college. “Why?” she asked. My response shocked her—“I′m going to play football.” She was surprised since I had not played high school football, but I had lettered in track and field. Toward the end of fall football camp, I met Dr. Wolf. I didn’t know who he was. This tall fellow in baggy pants with a large old camera showed up to take single pictures of each football player for the yearbook. He got on the ground to get the proper angle of each one of us.

“Who is he?” I inquired. “Dr. Wolf, professor of English.”

“Wow,” I thought. “That is neat.”

Dr. Wolf personified the kind of professors who were at the college. He not only was a stellar scholar and teacher in the classroom, but he was involved in the campus life of students. He and Bess would chaperone events for students. He was the faculty advisor to ODK when I was admitted. We saw Dr. Wolf and others involved in the life of the campus. He knew us by name.

I did not know what my major was to be—it almost was the field of English. My sophmore year, he was my challenging and engaging professor whose class I did not want to miss.We memorized old sagas, like Beowulf, in ancient English, and sections from Canterbury Tales. Stories and poetry told the history of a people, and one learned social values and the culture told through everyday events.

This was brought home by Dr. Wolf’s passion for tracking down ancient ballads and songs from the Ozark mountains of Arkansas—Izard and Stone counties—where his father and relatives were from. He would play some of these ancient songs and some more modern ones that told of heroic actions like the “Battle of New Orleans,” which he recorded and was later made famous by the singer Jimmy Driftwood. Some of these songs had their origins in Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. The study of English was broader than met the eye and encompassed a wide range including music, art, social history and dramatic events in history. Dr. Wolf made it come alive.

I didn’t major in English, but Philosophy, but Dr. Wolf was one of my favorite professors. I tried harder in his class because I had gotten to know him outside of class and respected him. His approach to teaching and participation in the life of students, getting on the ground on a hot August day to take photos of sweaty football players, made our education at Rhodes (ole Southwestern At Memphis) unique and meaningful. We kept up after graduation, and I prize a book his wife Bess presented to me, Life In The Leatherwoods, an Ozark Boyhood Remembered, when I was a pastor in Memphis. Thank you.

Professor Jack Russell
Richard Park ’59

At Rhodes, I was a math major, and it’s interesting to surmise why. A large part of it had to do with something that happened within a month of my arrival at Rhodes. My first college test happened to be a math exam. I was far from being a top academic scholar. Nevertheless, I had a remarkably good secondary school education, and that proved to be a real asset during my early college days. When my first exam was returned, Professor Jack Russell wrote on it, “Mr. Park, this is an excellent paper. I will be expecting big things of you in the remainder of this course.”

In the movie Jerry McGuire, the classic statement of Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise was, “You had me at hello.” Similarly, Dr. Russell had me hooked. First of all, I don’t believe anyone had ever called me Mr. Park before. I had great respect for my professors, but I was moved by the respect that they showed toward the students. From these few words he wrote, I knew I wasn’t about to let Professor Russell down. My decision to become a math major evolved from this simple beginning, and, as evidenced by my 35-year career as an actuary, I never looked back. Thank you, Professor Russell.

Professor Dan Rhodes
Nancy Wooddell Warlick ’59

I want to toast Dr. Dan Rhodes, a gifted teacher, a wonderful man of God and the one who was responsible for my coming to Rhodes 50 years ago. I first knew Dr. Rhodes, his wife Ethel and his family back when I was a child in Beverly, WV, where he was my pastor and baptized me when I was 10 years of age. He was a giant of a man who looked like Abraham Lincoln. I, and many of us who were his students here, remember his long fingers pointed at us as he asked very probing questions during the “Man” course. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a twinkle in his eye and a special laugh. His nickname for me was “Little Bit.” When he left Rhodes, he went on to teach at Davidson College (his alma mater), where every year some in the student body would present him a birthday cake on Abraham Lincoln’s official birthday. Don’t know why we didn’t think of that here at Southwestern/Rhodes. I kept in touch with Dr. Rhodes over the years. I last saw him and had a special visit with him at Davidson College when my husband Bill and I were there. Soon after Dan’s death, Ethel Rhodes called to let me know. I thank God for Dr. Dan Rhodes and what he meant in my life.

Professor Jared Wenger
Truly Brown Mount ’59

I raise my glass to Dr. Jared Wenger, French professor extraordinaire. I trace my lifelong love affair with the French language and literature to his class. Even though I was always nervous and in a state of high alert in his class, just to be there and hear his beautiful French made it worth it to be stressed out. His class cast a spell of enchantment over me. He was demanding and exacting, and the most creative and challenging teacher I’ve ever had. I give him credit for any success I’ve had as a French professor. Many of the techniques and strategies that I use in class are things we did in his class. Sometimes I’ve even thought I’ve come up with some creative plan only to realize—“Wait! We did that in Dr. Wenger’s class!”

He was kind of a mystery man. He would be spotted running around the track, and this was before running was something almost everybody did. That marked him as different, and so did what I learned at the Memphis College of Music one day. My first term in college, I took piano as an extra because I’d been taking it for so long I couldn’t imagine not taking it. My teacher told me that she had a piano student beginner who was a faculty member, and—you guessed it—it was Dr. Wenger.

His hand in devising our comps was so obvious. Since I graduated in three years, Mary Jane Smalley and I were the only ones taking comps in French that spring, out in the brown buildings. We had nothing good to say about Dr. Wenger after those three exams. His questions had us screaming and pulling our hair out! He showed just how creative and challenging he could be. But we survived, and he even said we did well, so we forgave him.

So now I close by saying, “Merci bien, mon professeur.”

Dean Jameson Jones
Sissy Rasberry Jones ’59

Here’s to Jameson Jones, a man of many seasons, who came to Southwestern as academic dean in 1955. He had been widowed, with three little boys, and recently married to his much beloved Dot.

He was teacher, scholar, visionary, artist whose roots went deep, so deep that he was steady in the wind of tragedy, loss and new ideas and truths that could take him to new places.

In addition to being dean, he taught Philosophy of Art, Logic, and Senior Bible. He taught me that if one redhead had a fiery temper, not ALL do, and how to link art and music to the historical time in which they were created. It was a stretch to compare Kandinsky’s art to Schoenberg’s music, and that is exactly what I was—stretched.

I can still see the chart of kairos time scratched on the blackboard in Senior Bible. In a visit not long before he died, we talked about the dreadful story of the woman at Sodom and Gomorrah who looked back and was turned into a block of salt. The next topic was: “What I really want to do is start a conference at Montreat on what’s wrong with the Bible!”

From the time I met him as a student there were no leaves not to be turned, no rock not to be looked under when discussing war, politics, sex, love, music and art.

The only constants are friendship and love ... and hope.

He is sorely missed.