Carolyn Rhodes

Carolyn Rhodes Teaching an Honors Class, circa 1980-1989

Carolyn Rhodes (1925-2019) was a professor in the Department of English at Old Dominion University (ODU) from 1965 to 1990.

Early Life

Born Carolyn Hodgson on May 16, 1925, in Birmingham, Alabama, only child of Lester Hodgson and Dolly G. Hodgson, Dr. Rhodes spent her childhood between Alabama and New York City.

Carolyn went on to earn Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and English from the University of Alabama and a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Columbia University. After the death of her first husband, Dr. Rhodes returned to graduate school, earning both a Master of Arts degree and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky (1965). During these years, Carolyn was recipient of the Higgins Teaching Fellowship for nine semesters, and she also worked at the Veterans Administration in Lexington, Kentucky, administering psychometric tests, as an Editorial Assistant for Railway Age Magazine, and as an Instructor of English Language Orientation for Indonesian students.

Old Dominion University Service

After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Rhodes began as an Assistant Professor at ODU in 1965, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1969, and was named a Professor of English in 1978. Her teaching and research interests included American fiction, women writers, American feminism, and science fiction.  Among the highlights of Carolyn’s distinguished career at ODU were being selected as a Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature at Babes-Bolyai University in Romania (1982-83) and as a Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature at Peking University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China. She also co-founded the vibrant and powerful University Women’s Caucus, which recognized her “as the person making the greatest contribution to advancing the status of women at Old Dominion University during the first decade of the Caucus, 1973-1983.”  She served as Principal Investigator for the Women’s Studies Pilot Grant funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities (1977-78), which established the Women’s Studies Program at Old Dominion University as the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  She also was a co-founder of the Friends of Women’s Studies, established in 1985, and was instrumental in establishing the Women’s Center in 1976.

In addition, Carolyn Rhodes was co-founder of the Feminist Education Trust Fund at ODU, for which she was Trustee 1978-1981, and she served as the president of the Women’s Caucus of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, 1975-76.  She received numerous additional honors, including recognition as a Woman of Distinction by the YWCA of Southampton Roads, being named “Teacher of the Year” by Delta Sigma Lambda, a sorority for returning women students ages 25 and older, and election to lifetime membership by the Kentucky Psychological Association.

Personal Activities

Avid birdwatchers, Carolyn and Ernie Rhodes traversed the globe, hiking in rain forests and exploring every continent except Antarctica.  A kind, charismatic and open-minded intellectual, Carolyn also maintained a lively social life, hosting wonderful parties and cultivating countless rich friendships with former colleagues, students, book club members, and feminist friends of all ages.  She was an invaluable mentor and editor whose contributions have been widely acknowledged and who will be deeply missed.


  1. Carolyn Rhodes Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.
  2. ODU Photographic Collection, ODU Libraries Digital Collections, contains photographs of Carolyn Rhodes.
  3. Oral History Interview with Carolyn Rhodes, ODU Libraries Digital Collections.
  4. Women at ODU: Builders of Communities and Dreams, ODU Digital Exhibits contains information about the history of women at ODU including information on Carolyn Rhodes’ contributions.


  1. ODU’s Feminist Legacy, Friends of Women’s Studies Newsletter, 2019 March 28.