The Sou’wester

Russ Wigginton says goodbye to Rhodes after 27 years

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Russ Wigginton says goodbye to Rhodes after 27 years

Photo courtesy of Rhodes College

Photo courtesy of Rhodes College

Photo courtesy of Rhodes College


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Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Russ Wigginton will be leaving Rhodes College, effective June 30. Wigginton graduated from Rhodes with the class of 1988 and has served the college as a professor, Special Assistant to the President, Vice President of College Relations and Vice President for External Programs before entering his current position.

“It was kind of intimidating, pulling up to campus,” Wigginton said of his first time on campus. “But really, I had a great experience here as a student.”

During his time as an undergraduate, Wigginton played on the basketball team and served as the Black Student Association (BSA) president.

Wigginton returned to Rhodes in 1996 as a William Randolph Hearst Fellow, which allowed him to teach a class a semester while writing his dissertation.

“That was supposed to be a two-year fellowship, and it was. I enjoyed my time here, and things were going well from a teaching standpoint, so I ended up becoming a full-time faculty member,” Wigginton said.

After Wigginton chaired multiple ad hoc committees under President Emeritus Bill Troutt, Trout asked Wigginton to become Special Assistant to the President and help Rhodes become more engaged in Memphis. Wigginton accepted the position and went on to be Vice President for College Relations. In fall 2017, President Marjorie Hass made Wigginton Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life.

Throughout his 27 years at Rhodes, Wigginton has witnessed the college’s development.

“We’re a much bigger place now…Related to that is the overall socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, geographic diversity that we have now, it’s really been quite dramatic,” Wigginton said. “Another one of the biggest changes is the depth of our relationship with Memphis and Memphis’s relationship with Rhodes, there’s a much broader appreciation for and reliance, if you will, on each other.”

Wigginton has had influence in a variety of capacity during his career at the college. Of all his accomplishments, Wigginton said he feels proudest of deepening Rhodes’s connection to Memphis and being part of the committee that founded the Africana Studies department “at a time when not everybody was convinced that was going to be a viable program.”

“I’ve had a chance to play some role, some more significant than others, but an important enough role in many of what have become signature programs at the college, particularly those that relate to the community, so things like the Regional Institute, the Curb Institute, the Day Scholars, the Day Scholars, the Turner Center and our new urban ed program,” Wigginton said.

Going forward, Wigginton plans to work outside of higher education, though he will stay in Memphis.

“I won’t be starting a new job July 1 after leaving June 30,” Wigginton said.

Wigginton also provided the Rhodes community with some final words of advice.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” Wigginton said.

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Russ Wigginton says goodbye to Rhodes after 27 years