Reflections on Rhodes College and higher academics with Dr. William E. Troutt
by Samuel X. Cicci
Some people never want to leave college, but Dr. William “Bill” E. Troutt was lucky enough to stay at the helm of Rhodes College for almost two decades. At the age of 68, he retires as the longest-serving college president in the country, with a 17-year position at Nashville’s Belmont College preceding his time in Memphis. Thirty-five years is a long time, and the education landscape has changed drastically during his tenure. However, he doesn’t regret a second of it. Marks of his leadership remain on campus, including the $35 million gift for the Paul Barret Jr. Library, opened in 2005, as well as more internal changes, such as restructured trustee governance. The college’s continued growth in the community, as well as the success of its students, may well be Troutt’s greatest legacy, but the bow-tied Tennessee native has many fond memories of his time at Rhodes.
IMB: You were at Rhodes for 18 years?
Dr. William Troutt: I came here on July 1 of 1999, and tomorrow, I finish 18 years of service here and 35 years as a college president. I was at Belmont at Nashville for 17 years before that, so it’s been a wonderful journey.
When I was a college senior, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I had started college thinking I’d be a minister. Then you go to liberal arts college and things are clarified, so I decided I wanted to be a college president. To my surprise and delight, that’s been my occupation for most of life, really. You’re my last interview of my professional career! July 1, 1999, has passed quickly.
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