Posted: 10/15/21

TAMIU Honors Late Professor with Children’s and Young Adult Library Collection


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Family members and University colleagues of the late Texas A&M International University longtime faculty member Dr. Frances “Panchita” Gates Rhodes joined Friday for the unveiling and dedication of a new Children’s and Young Adult Literature Collection that will bear her name in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library.

The Dr. Frances “Panchita” Gates Rhodes Children’s and Young Adult Literature Collection, spanning 15,644 items, memorializes Dr. Rhodes’ research and teaching focus on these areas.  A plaque honoring Dr. Rhodes and her over 38 years of service heralds the Collection, located on the second floor of the Killam Library.

TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz welcomed guests and shared his memories of Dr. Rhodes, especially noting her mentorship of fellow faculty and her role as faculty ombudsman. 

“Panchita was the heart and soul of our faculty.  It was a role that just came to her naturally because she truly loved this University and all that it represented and made possible for students, faculty and staff,” Dr. Arenaz said.

TAMIU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Tom Mitchell also recalled Rhodes and spoke of her legacy.

“Dr. Rhodes was a passionate advocate for her discipline, for her students, for her colleagues, and for TAMIU.  The students, graduates, and colleagues she inspired easily number in the thousands. And she was a hugger too.  Everyone knew she cared for them.  Through this Collection, her orbit will continue to widen and inspire others for generations to come,” Dr. Mitchell said.

In remarks on behalf of the family, Dr. Rhodes’ eldest daughter, Bianca Rhodes Spies, said the dedication had special meaning.

“I’m honored to see her colleagues and former students and hear such kind words about my Mom.  Having this Collection bear her name is truly the most meaningful gift we could have ever received, because she was a storyteller.  She would have loved this and I know she is beaming from above,” Spies said.

Rhodes retired in May 2020 as a much admired and respected associate professor of English, former chair and, at the time of her retirement, senior lecturer at TAMIU. Her passing in January of this year from COVID-19 was felt deeply at the University.

 She had the distinction of being a former Laredo State University graduate who would return to become a faculty member in the very classrooms that helped mold her academic pursuits.

In addition to her research in linguistics, Dr. Rhodes’ 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.

Joining Spies in attending Friday's unveiling and dedication were her husband and son, Roy Ehresman and Carson Spies Ehresman;  aunt Susie Rhodes, and her husband Dr. Stanton Truxillo.

For additional information on The Dr. Frances “Panchita” Gates Rhodes Children’s and Young Adult Literature Collection, please contact Killam Library Director Ben Rawlins at 956.326.2138,  email benjaminrawlins@tamiu.edu, or click on https://www.tamiu.edu/library/. To view a livestreamed video of the event, visit here

Gates Spies Family Photo
Dr. Frances "Panchita" Gates Rhodes' family members attending the unveiling and dedication, included, left to right, Roy Ehresman and his wife, Bianca Rhodes Spies, their son Carson Spies Ehresman; Dr. Rhodes'  sister  Susie Rhodes, and her husband Dr. Stanton Truxillo.


Family members before plaque
Family members join before plaque that heralds the 15,644-item Dr. Frances "Panchita" Gates Rhodes Children's and Young  Adult Literature Collection.