By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Students pack up for Christmas vacation
Freshman Tyler Stockton regales his classmates with the tale of Ferdinand the Bull during PHC's first-ever coffee shop event
A comfortable hush filled the coffee shop in the Barbara Hodel Center (BHC) as PHC Professor of History Dr. David Aikman read the Christmas story to a roomful of younger men and women. While this age-old tale filled their imaginations, PHC students ceased for a few minutes from their intense pre-finals study and simply enjoyed the first unofficial PHC “coffee shop” evening.
“One day [junior] Rebecca Beach and I were hanging out,” relates senior Tia Ly, “and we both had the same idea to hold an event in the new coffee shop. We thought it would be a shame not to put our classmates’ talent to use.”
Students studied and talked while their classmates performed original music on the raised stage in the BHC coffee shop. Everyone across campus got involved, from the freshmen barbershop quintet to 2008 alumna and Resident Director for Women Dominique Deming’s recital of a humorous story. The evening was such a resounding success that Ly and Beach hope to repeat it at least once a month during the spring semester, perhaps even opening the event one day to participation from the surrounding community.
“It is an outlet for artistic expression,” says Ly.
New Center Rounds Out Campus Life
More important, perhaps, is what the coffee shop event symbolizes—just how many opportunities the Barbara Hodel Center has opened up for the PHC campus community. Reflecting back on the Fall 2009 semester, PHC’s administrative leadership rejoices in the obvious milestone that the BHC signifies. The Hodel Center Dedication in October proved a remarkable opportunity to recognize Barbara Hodel, a long-time College trustee and supporter. Before a packed gymnasium of guests, students, faculty, and alumni, she embodied a Christ-like joy and serenity, despite her injuries and full-body paralysis incurred during a fall at her home in 2006. Since the Center’s opening, Mrs. Hodel’s effervescent joy seems to have infused the facility.
Home basketball game in the new gym, as eager fans in the bleachers wear white to support their team
Along with racquetball courts and a huge fitness room, other athletic facilities include the gorgeous gym, which has given both the men’s and women’s basketball teams a place to practice and to call home, giving them a fighting chance for success. Cheering crowds have filled the new bleachers for the teams’ first-ever home court games.
Academics Growing Roots
In the academic arena, Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Laura McCollum considered the fall semester part of a stabilizing, maintaining season as the College readies itself for an eventual bid for regional accreditation. In this phase, she says, PHC seeks to maintain and build upon the consistency of all aspects of its academic programs.
“I think the Lord has been helping us mature and consistently implement policies and procedures,” she explains.
Wearing her other hat as Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, McCollum notes the academic achievements of her staff, including PHC alumna Naomi Harralson and PHC Registrar Rodney Showalter. Each presented papers at a number of academic conferences this past fall, including the state-wide Virginia Assessment Group Conference.
The College’s distinguished faculty has also experienced publishing and speaking success this year, so McCollum notes that it is “pretty exciting to have administrative staff participating scholastically as well.”
“The more people know about what we’re doing [at PHC], the more excited they get about it,” she smiles. “We’re opening doors and inviting people in.”
Chairman of the Department of the Classical Liberal Arts, Dr. Steven Hake, also applauds “more classroom space and better facilities” afforded by the Hodel Center.
PHC President Dr. Graham Walker tours a Barbara Hodel Center that is still under construction just before the Fall 09 semester
In the Department of Government, Chairman Dr. Frank Guliuzza repeats the same theme of stability, noting that across campus, administration is maintaining “a real effort to make changes only when necessary.” He points to the ongoing national recognition of the PHC moot court team, which is preparing to compete for another national championship (three in the past five years) in January in Miami, as well as strong showings by the newer mock trial team.
Next Steps Coming Into Focus
The College seems to stand at the threshold of a new season of expansion, as all PHC leadership is gearing up for the next stage of growth in the College’s academic programs in the next few years, dependent in large part on attaining candidacy status for regional accreditation. Along with plans for a burgeoning Music major, developing under the leadership of Music Director Dr. Steve McCollum, President Walker discloses that another plan is in the works for a major in Business and Entrepreneurship.
“Several people have been mentioned to me as potential members of an advisory planning council for this major,” he reveals. “I would imagine that an apprenticeship requirement of this major would be to start a business.”
PHC Chancellor Mike Farris talks with parents and students at the '09 Fall Orientation in August
“The value of our alumni’s degree is going up!” Walker concludes!
PHC Chancellor Dr. Michael Farris perhaps best summed up the overall optimism on campus at the College’s staff and faculty Christmas party held in the Grand Lobby of the BHC. For Farris and others who’ve watched PHC grow through the past nine years, the Hodel Center itself is a brick-and-mortar expression of the College’s expanding influence and maturity.
“We stand inside a building, and in the midst of other beautiful facilities,” he said, “that are so far beyond anything that any of us could have built on our own. It is unmistakable evidence to me that this College remains a God-sized undertaking.”