Music professor Mark Rhoads reflects on his time here at Bethel University as retirement nears.
By Nick LaFrombois | Clarion Correspondent
Mark Rhoads sat fence-side in his lawn chair on a bright, sunny day as he waited for his daughter Allison to compete. The smell of horse sweat and manure fills the air. Dressed in boot-cut jeans, white-frilled western shirt with an old beat up cowboy hat, Allison sits on her chestnut-colored horse, hooves stamping in place in anticipation. She takes off, and the race is over in all of five seconds. No matter how short the memory is, for music professor Dr. Mark Rhoads, the memory lasts a lifetime.
These are some of Rhoads’ favorite memories with his daughter Allison. Hooking up the horse trailer to his 81-foot, three-quarter ton, forest green Dodge pickup, driving Allison and her horse, Rags, to various horse tracks around the Twin Cities to compete, and eating at whatever fast food restaurant was nearest to the track.
His love and care for his daughters are immense. Rhoads lives with his wife Maryline, his daughter Micaela and her four sons in Lino Lakes Minnesota, and regularly visits Allison who works with the horses at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
That love for his family bleeds into his care and compassion for his fellow faculty members and his students, and to those around him, that is the legacy he will leave at Bethel University––his care for others.
“Mark Rhoads is probably one of the big reasons I came to Bethel.” — Junior Keziah Wiita.
Mark Rhoads has been teaching at Bethel University since 1988 as a music professor. He has taught general music education, choral music, led multiple choirs, and has become a hymnologist, teaching students the ins and outs of the history and writing of hymns. Rhoads has been teaching at Bethel for 30 years, this year being his 31st and final year, and out of everything in his 31 years here, he loves spending time interacting with, encouraging, and caring for students the most.
“I could very well end up missing interacting with young people on a regular basis,” Rhoads said. “Because I think perhaps that this keeps me young.”
He often stops in the halls to talk with his students, ask them the extra questions, invites them into his office, and gets coffee with them at Royal Grounds just to chat. He is known for being intentional with the students, being a counselor, an adviser, and a friend.
“He takes interest in his students as persons, not just students,” sophomore Joe Werden said. “When I went into his office and told him what I wanted to do, [change major from music to missional ministries] he was the only one who conveyed interest in what I wanted, and what I was wanting to do.”
Being a professor isn’t just about teachings students, getting paid, and getting off work for Rhoads. He makes an effort to make a personal connection with students as well as help the students personally connect with what they’re learning.
One of Mark Rhoads deeper connections with a student is with Bethel University junior Keziah Wiita. Wiita has known Dr. Rhoads for all of her memorable life, and mentions her close relationship to him that they have maintained for 10 plus years, calling him “Uncle Mark”.
“He really cares about people, especially his students,” Wiita said. “Mark Rhoads is probably one of the big reasons I came to Bethel.”
Rhoads has had his ups and downs while at Bethel. He has dealt with his duties and positions being cut, helped his family members through mental illness, dealt with insecurities of teaching, conducting and working alongside others, but has never stopped loving others, or trusting God. He mentions his faith and how dealing with various issues while at Bethel has strengthened his relationship with God.
“That’s really the only way you get to know him and trust him,” Rhoads said. “That is — through adversity.”
In terms of his legacy at Bethel, his care, encouragement and love his how he wishes to be remembered by students and faculty.
“My goal is to encourage and inspire,” Rhoads said. “That’s always at the front of my mind: to inspire and encourage engagement, not just get students to do stuff for a grade, but to actually get them to think about stuff — that’s how I would like to be remembered.”
Timeline | Mark Rhoads’ Career.
Bio Box | Fun Facts about Mark Rhoads
- Writes poetry and is a self-proclaimed “Civil War buff” in his free time — collects Civil War prayer journals.
- Has published a book of his poetry: No Gathering in of This Incense
- Will turn 70 in January
- Loves Simon and Garfunkel
- Owns a horse named Tater Tot with his wife.
- Enjoys the stir fry and the salad bar in the Dining Center
- Has three adopted daughters and six grandchildren.
- His father was a mechanic in WWII and was stationed in England.
- Professor Herbert Johnson calls him the “Guru of ICA”. Source: Herbert Johnson
Quote Collection | Quotes from music faculty about Mark Rhoads’ personal impact on them.
“I’ve benefited greatly having an older faculty member right along the same path with me helping learn how to be a faculty person and watching him raise his kids and have a model for that, what great parent he is and how he does things, that’s how a good person raises their kids. ” –– Department Chair Jonathan Veenker.
“We’ve encouraged each other in our faith and challenged each other healthily in our politics.”–– Director of Instrumental Activities Steven Thompson.
“It’s been good to have someone so knowledgeable, kind, caring and encouraging around when working here.”–– Music professor Herbert Johnson.