As the Rhodes community celebrated the college's 175th anniversary, we reflected on the defining moments of our history, our traditions, and continuing excellence in the liberal arts. Embarking on a bright future, Rhodes will continue to inspire students, transform lives, graduate trailblazers, and advance our national and international stature.
A Fall Full of Celebrations and Events
During the fall semester we encouraged alumni to share their favorite memories of the college and explore a timeline of Rhodes College's history and its transformation since its founding in 1848. Many events for the campus and the community were held throughout the semester to celebrate this significant milestone.
President Jennifer Collins was inaugurated as the 21st president of Rhodes in a ceremony at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, October 21, in the Bryan Campus Life Center.
During the month of November, we will celebrated the history of Rhodes by inviting alumni and the community to engage with courses being presented through the Meeman Center for Lifelong Learning.
A Lasting Legacy
Charles E. Diehl served as president of the college from 1917 to 1949. Dr. Diehl shepherded the school through the difficult times of World War I, brought women students into the college on an equal basis with men, and moved the college from Clarksville to Memphis. He supervised every detail in building the new campus, including selecting the location, the architects, and the design style—Collegiate Gothic. While putting the college on a solid footing in Memphis, he hired new faculty, taught a Bible course, and even survived accusations of heresy.
Devotion and Growth
Peyton Nalle Rhodes joined the college in 1926 as a physics professor, became vice president in 1944, and served as president from 1949 to 1965. In his 16 years as president, Rhodes established a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at the college, oversaw the construction of 10 major buildings, and nearly doubled the college’s financial assets. In 1981, the college named the physics building the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Tower and, in 1984, the Board voted to rename the college Rhodes College to honor the man who had devoted himself to the institution for nearly 60 years.
On the Move
The Road to Memphis
Founded in 1848 in Clarksville, Tennessee as the Masonic University of Tennessee, the college had several names over the years that reflected its changing circumstances. Concerned about the college’s future in Clarksville, the Board decided to move the school to Memphis in 1925, and in 1984 the college adopted the name Rhodes College to honor Dr. Petyon Nalle Rhodes, who served as president from 1949 to 1965.
Iconic Oak Alley
Formally known as the Rollow Avenue of Oaks, the trees in Oak Alley were planted south of Southwestern Hall as seedlings, brought from the Clarksville campus by alumnus and college engineer John A. Rollow, class of 1926. Today, Rhodes is certified as a Class IV Arboretum, the highest designation granted by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council.
The Honor Code
For more than a century, the Rhodes Honor System has encouraged students to fully express their individuality, while living in harmony with the broader community. Every fall, our first-year students participate in a solemn ceremony, where each signs a pledge to not lie, cheat, or steal, and to help create a community that values and embraces respect and compassion for others.
An Age-Old Rivalry
The intense football rivalry of Rhodes and Sewanee dates back to 1899 and was once described by Sports Illustrated as the “longest consecutively played college football game below the Mason-Dixon line." Since 1954, the two Tennessee schools have battled each fall for possession of the Edmund Orgill Trophy, named for a former mayor of Memphis and a benefactor of the college.
Setting the Foundation
Questions about the meaning and purpose of life are central to human existence. Every area of the Rhodes curriculum touches in some way upon such questions, whether directly as in philosophy, epic poetry, and political thought, or indirectly as in medieval Europe history, economic theory, and the structure of the universe. A wide range of Foundation One courses at Rhodes, including the SEARCH course founded in 1946, help students to think about these issues and provide the foundation for the entire curriculum at the college.
The newest addition to campus is Robertson Hall, a state-of-the-art science facility that opened in 2017. The facility, which maintains the Collegiate Gothic style of architecture, houses a number of biology and chemistry faculty and six teaching labs, five research labs, and three classrooms. The research capabilities of the new labs enhance the existing partnerships with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, the Overton Park Conservancy, and the Memphis Zoo.
Master's in Accounting
Founded in 1993, the Master of Science in Accounting program at Rhodes is rooted in the college’s liberal arts tradition and supports students’ advancement in professional accounting. Every year, Rhodes hosts a highly successful “Meet the Firms” event, where accounting firms and corporations meet M.S. students and accounting upperclassmen in preparation for both internships and jobs. The program boasts a 100 percent job placement rate.
Rhodes succeeds both in launching students into a wide variety of careers and in sending students to some of the best graduate and professional schools in the nation. According to recent data, one year after earning their Rhodes degree, more than 93% of graduates are employed and/or attending graduate school. The college also helps students secure prestigious post-graduate scholarships and fellowships, as evidenced by the U.S. Department of Education’s recent recognition of Rhodes as a top Fulbright-producing institution.
Memphis is Home
Rhodes has grown into one of the most civic-minded colleges in the country, thanks in large part to the city that has embraced it so whole-heartedly. Programs such as the Mike Curb Institute for Music and the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies are an intrinsic part of the Rhodes experience—and in 2012, these and other programs with a Memphis and Mid-South focus were gathered under one academic umbrella: the Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center.
Memphis Means Music
From the blues to jazz to hip hop to classical, Memphis music has it all! And from iconic local recording studios to Elvis' first home on Audubon Drive, the Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes explores all aspects of the music industry. Rhodes is one of only 38 programs nationwide to be named by Billboard Magazine as a 2022 Top Business School.
Over the course of the semester, we'll be celebrated Rhodes' 175th Anniversary with a series of Famous Firsts recounting important milestones for the college over the years.
During its first three decades, the college founded in Clarksville, Tennessee, in 1848 had four different names and seven different presidents. It was an inauspicious beginning for Rhodes College, now celebrating its 175th anniversary. Read More >>
Two women stand out as “firsts” in the college’s history—the first woman graduate, Margaret Trahern, and the first woman faculty member, Margaret Huxtable Townsend. Each played an important role in creating a more inclusive institution in the twentieth century. Read More >>
The 175th Anniversary Celebration Committee
Anne Beard – Chief of Staff, Co-Chair
Tim Huebner – Irma O. Sternberg Professor of History, Co-Chair
April Allen – Academic Affairs Coordinator
Carole Blankenship – Professor of Music; Chair, Department of Music
Linda Bonnin – VP for Marketing and Communications
Kerri Campbell – Director of Community Relations
Jim Duncan – Director of Athletics
Steve Haynes – Professor of Religious Studies
Tait Keller – Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History
Claire Kiernan ’24 – President, Rhodes Student Government
Charles McKinney – Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of History
Nikki Moore – Senior Director of College Events and Leadership Projects
Tracy Patterson – Senior Director of Alumni Relations
Bill Short – Associate Director of Library Services
Anne Strickland – Director of Student Involvement
Sandi George Tracy – Director of Career Services