SNU Women's Sports Icon Honored

Dr. Wanda Rhodes was honored on February 9, 2017, in front of a gym full of fans with the Dr. Larry Mills Meritorious Service Award. This award provides an avenue to honor the great leaders who have made a positive impact on the Athletic Department of Southern Nazarene University. It is named in honor of Dr. Larry Mills, along with his wife, Judy. Presenting this prestigious award was SNU Vice President for Student Development Dr. Mike Redwine and Director of Athletics Bobby Martin. Dr. Rhodes was also flanked with all of the SNU 11 women’s athletics teams.

Stephanie Shellenberger, a former coach and current professor in the kinesiology department, summed up Dr. Rhodes in this manner. “In the span of a lifetime, everyone will encounter true greatness a few times. Greatness can be intangible, such as an observation, a significant moment, or it can be an achievement, a physical happening or even a pivotal event. It can also be as tangible as a person. For me, and countless others, Dr. Rhodes is the epitome of greatness.”

Wanda Rhodes graduated from Bethany Nazarene College in 1952. After graduating, she was hired at Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho. During her eight-year stint in Idaho, Dr. Rhodes completed her masters at Oregon State University in Home Economics and a minor in Recreation.

Following her Masters, she was a graduate assistant at Indiana University and obtained her doctorate of education in 1962. She was then hired at Bethany Nazarene College in the physical education department and the Dean of Women position. For over 50 years, Dr. Rhodes has been a staple at Southern Nazarene. Her contributions cannot be measured. She is the mother, pioneer, and champion of women's athletics at Southern Nazarene. She either coached or assisted in bringing every existing sport to this campus. She helped bring volleyball, field hockey, archery, badminton, basketball, tennis and softball to the SNU campus. Rhodes designed and sewed uniforms, raised money for equipment, vehicles, fields and courts. She is an accomplished tennis player having won numerous tennis tournaments in four separate age divisions in both singles and doubles.

At one point, she was ranked number one in the Missouri Valley in all these age divisions. Dr. Rhodes wasn’t just skilled in tennis, but she participated in marathons, bicycling events, (riding her bike over 1200 miles from Nashville, Tennessee to Miami Beach, Florida) and badminton tournaments. Many summers she backpacked with her father, Olen Lee Rhodes.

In addition to these activities, Dr. Rhodes has been on the YMCA Board of Directors, Board of Directors for the Oklahoma City Tennis Association, Treasurer of the Board of Women Officials, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Omicron Nu, and Phi Lambda Theta and Chair of the Physical Education Department at Southern Nazarene University. She brought the Associated Women Students organization and Mortar Board (a national honor organization that focuses on scholarship, leadership, and service) to SNU. But most of all she is a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. 

SNU President Dr. Loren Gresham was not able to be at the presentation but had this statement for Dr. Rhodes.

“Congratulations to Dr. Wanda Rhodes on the occasion of being honored with the Larry Mills Meritorious Service Award. Your service to Southern Nazarene University students and colleagues is a model for a Christian higher education servant. All who have been touched by your life and example, love and appreciate you, and celebrate you on this special occasion."

One final note. This special date just happened to be Dr. Rhodes 87th birthday. The entire gym erupted into singing her Happy Birthday to celebrate.