In a small village in El Salvador, Dr. Fred Rhodes witnessed something remarkable. He and 20 Bellarmine students, along with two faculty members, were staying with local families on one of Bellarmine’s first international service learning trips in a developing country. The entire group was humbled and appreciative of the heartfelt hospitality of new friends.
Near the end of their stay, they heard the news of the village. A young boy, abandoned and homeless, had been beaten by a few other teenage boys. Angry and frustrated, he vandalized the local parish. To teach him a lesson, he was left alone to fend for himself. Everyone from the Bellarmine group was stunned and saddened.
The day before they left, they saw him sitting on the steps of the parish. With no discussion or direction, each one of the Bellarmine students silently removed all of their personal items from their backpack and gave all that they had to this young man. It was one of the most moving and unforgettable moments that all who witnessed it had ever experienced.
During his 23 years as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Fred witnessed many profound moments watching Bellarmine students touching lives and performing service all over the world. He has taken 10 groups of students to seven developing countries. Each year, the students raised money to pay for their trips and provide service to an array of good causes. Of all the hundreds of student events he has taken part in, nothing measures up to the pride, kindness and generosity demonstrated by Bellarmine students serving others.
In 2010, Fred’s wife, Gale, along with their two children, Zack and Abby, decided to honor Fred with a surprise birthday party that included the announcement of a scholarship intended to help Bellarmine students continue their efforts to serve others. “I wanted there to be a legacy to ensure that Fred’s efforts and dedication related to service and leadership continued for years to come,” Gale said.
That award has now been broadened to include service both domestically and abroad. The Fred W. Rhodes Servant Leader Award will be given annually to two juniors, one female and male, who have demonstrated leadership and service to a Bellarmine service program. Each recipient will receive a $1,000 award to be used for scholarship or to be given to a worthy service initiative of their choice.
Fred’s longstanding belief is that with privilege comes a responsibility to serve others. It is his hope that each recipient recognizes and honors that opportunity.