Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

This site is archival. Please visit for up-to-date content.

A legacy of generosity

The Verna Adwell Rhodes Endowed Professorship in Nursing will enhance the school’s teaching and research

May 6th, 2019

Story Contact: Cailin Riley, 573-882-4870,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Verna Adwell Rhodes’ career as a nurse, professor and researcher has taken her around the world.

Rhodes’ dedication to improving the field of nursing also has helped put the University of Missouri Sinclair School Of Nursing on the map in the field of oncology nursing. Now, in honor of Rhodes’ achievements, service and generosity, her family and friends have come together to establish the Verna Adwell Rhodes Endowed Professorship in Nursing. The endowed professorship will help attract and retain influential research faculty in the School of Nursing.

“Verna’s impact on thousands of students over three decades has left an indelible mark on nursing researchers and professionals throughout the country,” School of Nursing Dean Sarah Thompson said. “This professorship will allow the school to attract nursing research faculty who will continue to add to the Sinclair School of Nursing’s international prestige and renown.”

Rhodes came to MU in 1950 after earning her degree from St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Kansas City. She earned her bachelor of science in nursing in 1954, her master’s in educational psychology in 1957, and a graduate degree as an educational specialist in 1980. Rhodes was the first instructor in the School of Nursing to present a clinical paper and also was the first to publish in the American Journal of Nursing. She also became the school’s first faculty member to attend an international conference in oncology nursing. She retired from the school in 1995 but continued to travel and teach internationally. In 2011, Rhodes was named a Distinguished Friend of the Sinclair School of Nursing.

Jane Armer, a professor and director of nursing research at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, said many undergraduate nursing students chose to pursue careers in cancer nursing after a mentorship with Rhodes. Many of her mentees still work at the center today as bedside nurses, infusion nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse leaders.

“Verna taught me to be open to new possibilities as we dream big and to stay people-centered and respond with compassion in all situations,” Armer said. “She encouraged her colleagues to be thankful for all the opportunities each day brings and to plan for a legacy.”

In addition to her many academic achievements, Rhodes is known for her generosity and desire to give back to the school. Verna and her husband, James Rhodes, support the school through three endowments: the Verna Adwell Rhodes International Research Endowment, the Verna Adwell Rhodes International Travel Endowment, and the James and Verna Adwell Rhodes Endowed Nursing Fellowship. James Rhodes said he and Verna view this endowed professorship as a labor of love in honor of Verna’s time at the school.

“When the professorship honoring Verna was proposed to us three years ago, we saw it as a fitting capstone to her long career with its many accomplishments,” James Rhodes said. “It has taken us three years to get it financed, and we thank those of our friends and family who helped along the way.”