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Senator James Rhoades Remembered for his Commitment to Improve Education

Tribute to State Senator James Rhoades

by Joe Savrock (October 2008)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State’s College of Education mourns the untimely death of Pennsylvania State Senator James J. Rhoades (R-29), a true colleague and ally with a strong interest to improve the state of education.

Rhoades_James.jpgRhoades passed away Oct. 18 after a traffic accident the previous evening in Monroe County in eastern Pennsylvania. But the ideals he cherished live on.

Rhoades had keen insight on educational issues, a quality he drew from his hands-on experience in the schools. He was a former teacher at Pottsville and Mahanoy City High Schools in his native Schuylkill County; later he served as principal of Mahanoy Area Junior High School. He was an inspiring educator, coach, and leader.

Rhoades had a strong connection to the College of Education. An enthusiastic lifelong learner, he brought his passion for learning to Penn State, where he studied in the Educational Leadership doctoral program.

In 1980, Rhoades won a seat in the state Senate, where he worked to benefit students on a wider, statewide scale. He continued to serve in the Senate for seven consecutive terms, all the while making a favorable mark on the quality of education in Pennsylvania.

He was chair of the Senate Education Committee, working to create and promote policies to improve the quality of education. He helped establish the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Accountability Act, and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.

“Senator Rhoades was a champion for high-quality education throughout his outstanding career,” said David H. Monk, dean of the College of Education. “We were quite privileged to be able to count him as one of our colleagues in the College’s Educational Leadership graduate program.”

Rhoades’ activities in the Senate reflected the interests of the College. He backed many of the College’s initiatives. Just one week before he died, Rhoades hosted a contingent of business managers from the United Kingdom, part of a weeklong visit sponsored by the College of Education and organized by William Hartman, professor-in-charge of the Educational Leadership program.

 “Senator Rhoades was a ready source of information and materials,” said Hartman. “As one example, he regularly arranged a policy trip to Harrisburg for our College’s Wednesday Program leadership class—including speakers, meeting rooms, and lunch in the Capitol building. He was a wonderful proponent of Penn State and the College of Education. We will miss him greatly.”