A Life of Kindness A New Scholarship Honors Lou Hodges
When Lou Hodges died in February, the W&L community mourned for an educator and proponent of social justice whose impact on the campus still looms large. But now the community can celebrate because Lou’s name is permanently memorialized at the school he served for 43 years.
Lou’s wife of nearly 62 years, Helen Hodges, along with an anonymous former student of Lou’s, have established a scholarship in his memory. The scholarship will go to a student who needs help in order to attend W&L. It’s a fitting legacy. Lou had a lifelong habit of quietly befriending and supporting people-especially students-who came across his path and needed a kind word. Now, the scholarship in his name will continue his practice.
At the Hodges home on a recent morning, Helen looked through old photos and artifacts while discussing what she hopes will be remembered about her late husband through the W&L Scholarship. One photograph showed Lou in his academic robes, grinning, with a favorite hunting cap on his head. Handwritten letters from former students, sent after his death, shared stories and anecdotes from long ago. There’s also a copy of his 1960 doctoral dissertation on racial prejudice, which their eldest son, John Hodges, self-published in 2012.
Each item prompted a story, and with each story, Helen was reminded of another special item. Gradually, a picture emerged of a man who was deeply concerned about racial justice, who was bold to take a stand and impossible to pigeonhole, who was deeply kind but also had a rascally streak.
In the year before his father’s death, John Hodges self-published another of his father’s writings, “The Academy, The Press, Ethics.” In the opening pages of that publication, John paraphrased a quotation from his father: “It’s not ‘about’ being right; it’s certainly not ‘about’ being wrong. It is all about how we treat each other.”
“I think his whole life was all about that,” said Helen. “Lou was sort of an unofficial chaplain at W&L.” He took a special interest in his students and became a counselor and a friend to the ones who had trouble fitting in. “They saw Lou as someone who would listen.”
Now, through the Hodges Scholarship, new generations of W&L students will experience Lou Hodges’ generosity of spirit. Helen is funding the Hodges Scholarship in part with IRA charitable rollover gifts. She and W&L hope that others who were impacted by Lou will want to contribute to the scholarship.
Remembering Lou Hodges
The Roanoke Times published a warm tribute to Professor Hodges, which can be read online.
And the Society of Christian Ethics has published the tribute that Harlan Beckley, the Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion Emeritus, delivered at Hodges’ funeral.