Bridgewater College Announces the Bonnie Forrer and John Harvey Rhodes School of Arts and Humanities

Outside picture of Bowman Hall

Bridgewater College is pleased to announce the establishment of the Bonnie Forrer and John Harvey Rhodes School of Arts and Humanities. The Rhodes School will combine the College’s existing Division of Communication Studies, Fine Arts and Literature with the current Division of Humanities and Social Sciences to create the College’s first endowed, named school.

The result of a $5 million gift from Bonnie ‘62 and the late John Rhodes, the creation of the Rhodes School recognizes the central role the arts and humanities play in Bridgewater’s liberal arts mission to educate the whole person and graduate engaged citizens. The endowed fund will support greater opportunities for student success as well as a strengthened faculty of teachers, scholars and mentors. The Rhodeses’ gift will directly impact faculty development, improvements to classroom teaching, expanded opportunities for student-faculty scholarship, and stronger competitive positioning for external funding.

“We are humbled by John and Bonnie’s generosity and their belief in the transformative power of a liberal arts education. Strengthening our academic programs through endowed funding support is a key piece of the College’s Strategic Plan 2025, and we are grateful for the Rhodeses’ partnership as we work toward our vision for the future of Bridgewater College,” said President David W. Bushman. “The Rhodeses committed to this extraordinary gift just prior to John’s recent passing, and we will work tirelessly to honor his greatest wishes in perpetuity, elevating the quality of a Bridgewater education as a result of John and Bonnie’s visionary support.”

The funds from this transformative gift will enhance faculty development; strengthen investment in equipment, digital resources, specialized software and computer hardware to support teaching and learning in lectures and studios; provide more opportunities for student research and conference travel; establish a new pre-tenure sabbatical program; and establish an endowed chair for the School.

“This is a pivotal moment for Bridgewater College,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leona A. Sevick. “A gift of this magnitude enables us to implement programs and practices typically seen at the very best and most well-respected institutions. It provides us with meaningful resources to benefit student learning and success as well as faculty development.” 

“John’s world was that of business and finance. I grew up on a farm, and as a child I read voraciously, listened to classical music, and tuned into Texaco Metropolitan Opera on the radio every Saturday. This, along with my entire educational experience at BC, helped me understand how the whole world was connected,” said Bonnie Rhodes. “As a couple, our lives were so much richer because of our passion for literature, art, music and culture. In fact, the last present from John to me was attending the 10 best symphonies in the US. I know John was proud, and I’m so pleased, to be part of broadening students’ horizons through Bridgewater College’s Rhodes School of Arts and Humanities.”

Bonnie is a dedicated member of the Bridgewater College Board of Trustees. She and her late husband, John, are the primary benefactors of the College’s John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, a tribute to Bonnie’s father.