Jim Rhodes

The search for life work often follows unexpected routes. Doors open and new opportunities appear. Yet sometimes one is lucky enough to open a door early and have it be the one that sustains a lifelong commitment that brings great personal reward and satisfaction.

Leaving a small town in rural Indiana to attend a small liberal arts college opened that door for me. New worlds and new ways of thinking came both from the classroom but also from the many cultural opportunities the college offered. In those olden days, the college required 40 chapel points a semester, tallied by turning in signed slips after each event. I had the dubious distinction of accumulating 82 points my first semester, until I learned enough to be “cool” and not to turn in more slips than needed. That first year on campus, I heard Pete Seeger, a noted folk singer; Leontyne Price at the beginning of her operatic career; and Huston Smith, an expert on comparative religions. It was a very exciting environment both in and outside the classroom. With few graduation requirements at that time, I was able to sample widely in the curriculum. I tried my hand at a couple languages, at chemistry and mathematics, at economics and history, at comparative literature and Shakespeare before coming to political science. A semester in Washington, D.C., cemented that major and then the question all seniors face: What comes next?

I took the LSAT, GRE, and the Civil Service and Foreign Service exams. With the expansion of higher education in the United States, there appeared a need for college-level instructors, and a tobacco advertisement on the back of Time magazine of that period, showed a young tweedy professor at the blackboard. So I opted for graduate work first in political science, then in English, and then back to political science. Universities are exciting, demanding places. As a graduate assistant, I discovered the joy of classroom teaching, and my vocation became confirmed. For more than four decades I have looked forward to “work” each day with a new generation of young adults. How fortunate I have been to invest a lifetime in such a setting!