Wednesday, May 14, 2014
A liberal arts education in biology from Amherst College and knowledge of the Greek Anthology and the Peloponnesian War provided Henry G. Rhone’s ticket into Virginia Commonwealth University 44 years ago. It was 1970 and he was interviewing with vice president Walter Coppedge for the position of director of student activities.
Only two years out of college, the interview questions may have seemed strange to Rhone, but “I hung in there, I got the job and here I stand,” he said.
The following four decades would twice lead Rhone away from VCU: once in 1975 for a position at the University of Virginia, where he would earn his doctor of education, and again in the 1980s for a nine-year stint with J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College as assistant provost and dean of student services.
By August 1989, however, he had returned to VCU as assistant vice provost for student affairs, and he has been here ever since.
Throughout his lengthy career in higher education, Rhone has built a legacy of progress, inclusion and student engagement.
“Henry Rhone is one of the special individuals who is a perfect fit for the job he has held for four decades,” said Beverly Warren, Ed.D., Ph.D., outgoing provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I wish everyone could find that perfect of a fit for their careers.”
In his role as vice provost for student affairs, Rhone has overseen University Counseling Services, Student Health Services, Greek Affairs, University Career Center, Student Commons and Activities, Student Media Center, Recreational Sports, Student Government Association, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Residential Life and Housing, the honor system, Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity and financial management and technology services within the division.
He has also served on numerous committees, boards, grants, projects, consultations and presentations.
At Rhone’s recent retirement party, attended by colleagues, students, friends and family, Warren thanked Rhone’s wife, Audrey.
“I can tell you … how much it means to have family come and share this moment,” she said. “Oftentimes you don’t know how much your loved one means to that place where he’s invested much of his time, and you’ve had much less of him because of that.”
More than 100 people turned out to celebrate Rhone at his retirement party.
“This truly is a bittersweet moment for us as we say goodbye [because] – think about this – we as an institution don’t really know life without Henry Rhone,” said Warren, who is leaving her position to become president at Kent State. “There’s always been a Henry Rhone here. When I think about that, I start to panic, but then I think, ‘Oh, I’m leaving too, Henry!’ My timing is impeccable.”
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., praised Rhone as an advocate for the university’s students.
“Henry is beloved by generations of VCU students,” Rao said.
His colleagues, meanwhile, remarked on his sense of humor and his love of whimsy, golf, cycling and fine cigars. They also spoke of his impact.
Longtime colleague Carmen Bell was a student at VCU when she first met Rhone.
“In the ’70s, the tumultuous times of the ’70s, we had a class called ‘Cross Culture Communications’ where we had different cultures meet and learn about each other,” Bell said. “Henry was a facilitator. I learned more about myself from him in those classes than I have in my whole life.”
When Rhone spoke, he thanked his family, friends and colleagues, anyone that had made a profound impact in his life, apologizing for anyone he had forgotten.
“My career has followed the path which my alma mater commencement speaker talked about – it’s been an uncharted path filled with things he called ‘the vicissitudes of life,’” he said. “I am most grateful to all of you, friends, family, coworkers who have helped get me to where I am. I am not claiming any success without saying you did it.
“I’ve had the passion for providing quality services to students. I hope students find VCU a better place. We built buildings, we created a campus that reflects diversity, we created an environment that we think supports a positive education.”
Pausing to reflect on his past and of all the possibilities of his future, Rhone, husband, father of four, grandfather of two, finished his speech.
“My retired working friends said to me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time to leave.’ So, as I would say now, this is my season. Thanks for the memories. I’ll hit the road, Jack. I’ve done it my way. I’ve had the time of my life and still the best is yet to come. Thank you very much.”
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