On May 12, Rhodes College graduated 409 seniors, most of whom come from someplace other than Memphis. They successfully completed the rigorous academic demands in our classrooms, yet it is our city that has provided each of them access to a truly unique educational experience. Simply stated, Memphis, and the college’s connections to it, are now as much a part of the Rhodes education as any lab or lecture hall.
Rhodes is one of only a handful of national liberal arts institutions in a major metropolitan area. Our location in the heart of the region’s economic, political and cultural center makes it possible for students to actively engage in real-world learning and personal growth through unique internships, fellowships, service opportunities and other meaningful partnerships.
Last year Rhodes welcomed its largest first-year class ever. This fall’s incoming class will be its equal. Both of these classes represent the highest quality in our history in terms of academic achievement. Equally important, these two entering classes represent more than 40 states and multiple countries. In a still-struggling economy, Rhodes is proud to claim this level of academic excellence and geographic and ethnic diversity.
To what do we attribute the increased national interest in Rhodes? Our exceptional faculty, our collegiate gothic campus in Midtown, named by Forbes one of America’s most beautiful, and our long history of producing graduates who are critical thinkers and creative problem solvers are certainly key reasons. But in recent years, we have placed even greater emphasis on promoting the special opportunities that Memphis provides. The message resonates with prospective students from across the country and motivates them to attend Rhodes and immerse themselves in all aspects of the city.
Without Memphis, our students would not be able to participate in leading-edge research at renowned institutions such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Without Memphis, our students would not be able to secure international internships in partnership with FedEx. Without Memphis, our students would not be able to work alongside Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to create a city-wide service culture. Without Memphis, our students would not be able to mentor the schoolchildren at four nearby public schools and neighboring community organizations that comprise the Rhodes Learning Corridor. Without Memphis, Rhodes would not have been named Newsweek’s “Most Service Oriented College in America” for two years in a row. Without Memphis, Rhodes would not be Rhodes.
The city has such a positive impact on our students that year after year, many decide to stay in Memphis after graduation. Among the Class of 2012, there’s Indiana native Madeline Patterson, who, while at Rhodes, served an internship at Memphis City Hall and developed the One Memphis plan to create greater synergy among local nonprofits. There’s Jessie Davis from Kentucky, who will start her new financial career at Mercer Capital this summer. There’s Colin Antaya, a double major in philosophy and history from New Jersey, and Elizabeth Monda, a psychology major from Ohio, who will work locally for Teach for America this fall. There’s Memphis native Salar Rafieetary, a neuroscience major and Rhodes Student Government president, who has delayed his plans for medical school for a year to work at the Church Health Center. These are only a few of Rhodes’ newest alumni who benefited greatly from their four years in the city they now call home.
As we bid farewell to the Class of 2012 and prepare to welcome the Class of 2016, we do so knowing that Rhodes College is located in an ideal place. Thank you, Memphis, for helping provide our students with an exceptional education.
Bill Troutt is president of Rhodes College.