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Barbara Hodel: PHC Champion, Model of Servant Leadership

October 16th, 2012

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

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Barbara Hodel (center) with husband Don (l) and Mike Farris (r) at the 2009 Barbara Hodel Center dedication ceremony.

Barbara Hodel, the namesake behind the elegant Barbara Hodel Student Center and a long-time friend and champion of Patrick Henry College, journeyed home to be with her Maker, Thursday, October 11, at 10:30 p.m. mountain time. She had spent the few days before her passing in the hospital with a serious infection that resulted in a coma. Her husband of 55 years was by her side to the end.

After her passing, her husband Don remarked, “I say with complete confidence that if we were offered the chance to live the exact same life we have just shared and could not change a single thing including these last five years, I know that I would accept that offer instantly, and I believe Barbara would react exactly the same.  We have been blessed beyond all comprehension and merit, and we never lost sight of that fact.”

“Her Christian faith and godly perseverance in adversity prompted our Board of Trustees to name our beautiful Barbara Hodel Center in her honor,” said PHC President Dr. Graham Walker. “Many of us recall her moving words of faith at the dedication ceremony for the building that bears her name in October 2009, given while sitting immobilized in her wheelchair before the capacity crowd that day.”

Barbara Beecher Stockman was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Illinois and Maryland. She attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts and married Don Hodel in her senior year in 1965. The Hodels moved to Oregon after graduation and started a family; Mrs. Hodel became a full-time mom to their two sons.

Although she had been raised in a religious home, she did not put her personal trust in Jesus Christ until after a family tragedy in 1974, when their older son Philip took his own life. In the aftermath of that heartbreak, Barbara became active in church and various other Christian ministries where she has spoken at evangelistic meetings and prayer breakfasts. The Hodels have appeared on Focus on the Family broadcasts with Dr. James Dobson to encourage families who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Both Don and Barbara have been involved in government and politics most of their adult lives. Don was appointed Secretary of Energy (82-85) and Secretary of the Interior (85-89) by President Ronald Reagan, and together they have served as volunteers for a number of Christian organizations, including the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family, where Don served as President and CEO from 2003 until 2005. In all endeavors, Barbara and Don have served together as a husband-and-wife team in the truest sense.

After reading about Patrick Henry College for the first time in the fall of 1999, Barbara contacted the College’s founder, Dr. Michael Farris, for more information about the school and his plans for training the next generation of leaders. She was inspired by the vision for the College and offered to help. When Dr. Farris asked her to join the PHC Board of Trustees, she accepted.

In August of 2007, Barbara fell down the stairs of their Colorado home and suffered a high spinal cord injury which paralyzed her from the neck down. She was airlifted via “Flight for Life” to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver, and in late October she was moved to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital. Through her husband’s great care and devotion, as well as excellent care from her staff of nurses and prayers from all over the country, she slowly recovered yet remained paralyzed from the neck down. 

Dr. Farris visited Barbara in the hospital in Denver and was deeply moved by her cheerful manner and evident joy in the face of suffering. His experience there prompted him to recommend to the College Board of Trustees naming the College’s student life center The Barbara Hodel Center.

Barbara Hodel cutting the ribbon at the dedication of the Barbara Hodel Center in 2009.

“She had a breathing tube, and yet there was joy radiating from her countenance,” he recalled. “She could not move, yet her contentment was palpable. Because of her breathing tube she couldn’t talk audibly, but she still mouthed words, and her sense of humor was as lively and as spunky as ever. I knew right there that I was in the presence of a spiritual giant. If ever I felt as if I was standing on sacred ground, it was that day in that hospital room in Denver.”

Since her fall in 2007, her husband Don spent the last five years as a deeply devoted husband and caregiver to Barbara.

Dr. Farris hopes Barbara’s legacy will continue to inspire PHC students.

“First, her God-given joy and contentment in the midst of a life-altering trial taught our students an incredibly valuable lesson about that which is truly important in life,” he said. “Second, Barbara had served quietly in the background as her husband occupied a series of positions of national importance. Yet, his work and impact was only possible because of her active, quiet partnership at every step. She was a wife and mom. She had an impact on a very wide audience by her everyday actions of investing in her family. These are values that are rarely praised these days. But, the life of Barbara Hodel is a life that deserves to be honored by all. She did that which truly mattered in eternity.”

For a photo gallery dedicated to Barbara Hodel and her work with Patrick Henry College, please see below.