Posted: 5/04/21

Phi Kappa Phi Chapter 296 Launches New Dr. Frances G. Rhodes Memorial Fellowship


Dr. Frances Gates Rhodes
Dr. Frances Gates Rhodes  

Texas A&M International University’s (TAMIU) Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society is honoring one of its late champions and members with a Memorial Fellowship. 

The Dr. Frances G. Rhodes Memorial Fellowship will recognize the beloved TAMIU associate professor, College of Arts and Sciences, department of Humanities, who passed away this January.  Her service to the University and teaching spanned 38 years and impacted thousands of students.   She had retired as a TAMIU senior lecturer in May 2020.

TAMIU Phi Kappa Phi president Dr. Lola Norris, associate professor of Spanish and Translation, said the initiative was drawn from one of Dr. Rhodes’ colleagues, Dr. Tonya Huber, College of Education professor.

"When Dr. Huber approached me about setting up this Fellowship, I was delighted and brought it immediately to the Chapter leadership. We all agreed that there was no better way to honor the legacy of our dear friend, colleague, and Phi Kappa Phi member than with a named Fellowship that recognizes her dedication to her students and her impact on this university. On behalf of PKP Chapter 296, I thank Dr. Huber for her generosity,” Dr. Norris said. 

Professor Huber offered her thoughts on the research-focused Fellowship and said she felt the Fellowship, which focuses on educational research,  was a fitting way to honor one of TAMIU’s most popular faculty members.

“I was blessed to be one of Dr. Rhodes’ colleagues who shared her love of books and the written word because that earned me the opportunity to arrive at her home on a weekly basis during what we did not know then would be the last three months of her life. Our mission: sorting stacks and stacks upon stacks of books into appropriate distributions. Dr. Rhodes had been gifted libraries and special resource collections from other faculty over the years, including Dr. Norma Elia Cantú, Dr. F. Allen Briggs, Dr. Loren Nussbaum, and Mary Galvan. Frances’s fervent wish was that teachers have access to these books for their educational journeys to bring language and the love of literature to children and youth. The fellowship in her honor will encourage educators to keep her passion and love of learning alive!,” said Dr. Huber.

Criteria for consideration for the 2021 Fellowships include that the student be an active Phi Kappa Phi member, a graduate student or recent graduate of the College of Education with a minimum 3.25 GPA, a resume and copies of any published word, or a research-based paper in development and a personal statement of 300-500 words.

Fellowship recipients must be available to invest time in literature review/educational research for at least 50 hours during May-July 2021 with a full-length manuscript submitted for peer-review as the culmination of the Fellowship.

Applications will be available from on the  Phi Kappa Phi website at https://www.tamiu.edu/coas/lla/phikappaphi.shtml  and will be accepted through May 20, 2021.  Awardees will be able to begin their research fellowship this summer.

Originally from Eagle Pass, Dr. Rhodes  earned a BS in Elementary Education  and a Master of Science in English Education from the former Laredo State University (LSU). She had the distinction of being an LSU graduate who returned to become a faculty member in the very classrooms that helped mold her academic pursuits.

Under the tutelage of her mentor, the late Dr. F. Allen Briggs, she would go to earn a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics at The University of Texas at Austin. She returned to Laredo in 1982 as a visiting instructor and would also teach at Southern Methodist University, UT-Austin, and the Austin Independent School District. Other teaching posts included  Western Oregon State College, Eagle Pass Independent School District and the Holding Institute.

At LSU and TAMIU, she took tremendous pride in her classes, infusing each with her characteristic commitment and wit, to the delight of her students.

In addition to her research in linguistics, her research expanded to include children’s literature, especially that of the Holocaust, young adult literature, language in contact and the importance of storytelling.  Completely bilingual in English and Spanish, she was a frequent guest in Laredo and Eagle Pass classrooms for children’s reading programs, and a lifelong advocate for the importance of folklore study.

Active in the University’s Faculty Senate, she served as Faculty Ombudsman for the Faculty Senate, as a sponsor for Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society, and was a longtime member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and others.

One of her proudest TAMIU accomplishments was her leadership in establishing the Dr. F. Allen Briggs Folklore Collection at the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library.

Rhodes is survived by her two adult children, Bianca Rhodes Spies and Christian Gates Spies and grandchildren Christa Gates Spies, Abigail Ruth Spies, and Carson Spies Ehresman.

The family hosted a special Celebration of Life event this past Saturday, May 8 at Christ Church Episcopal, 2320 Lane Street.  Details are available online at https://www.joejacksonfuneralchapels.com/obituary/DrFrances-GatesRhodes

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society. In March, the TAMIU Chapter 296 inducted 70 new members in a virtual ceremony. The TAMIU Chapter was first installed in 2005. 

For additional information about Phi Kappa Phi or to donate to The Dr. Frances G. Rhodes Memorial Fellowship, please visit here.