UA Little Rock alumnus Patrick Rhode and his wife Leslie decided to do something different for their 23rd wedding anniversary earlier this year. Instead of giving gifts to each other, they chose to give the gift of scholarships to students at UA Little Rock’s School of Mass Communication, one of four Arkansas universities from which Patrick and Leslie received degrees.
The couple pledged $25,000 to endow a scholarship fund that will provide emergency assistance for students in the School of Mass Communication. Recipients of the Patrick and Leslie Rhode Endowed Scholarship can use the funds for tuition, books, fees, room and board, and any expense related to the student’s success. Selection preferences will be given to students who work full-time while obtaining their degree, and academic accomplishment will be considered.
“This special anniversary gift from Patrick and Leslie is deeply meaningful to us,” said Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement. “I thank them for choosing to believe in the potential of each of our students to thrive just as they have in their professions.”
A native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Patrick Rhode currently serves as U.S. vice president of corporate affairs for the global infrastructure firm, Cintra.
“We are all fortunate to live in a country where you don’t have to look far for inspiration,” Patrick Rhode said. “It lives everywhere around us and in the determined eyes of young people who balance work and school every day for a chance at an unknown story that awaits. Leslie and I have longtime ties to central Arkansas, and we appreciate what UA Little Rock is doing to support students who are dreaming about their futures with their families in mind.”
Leslie Rhode, a former television news anchor and reporter in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, got her career start in Arkansas and is thrilled to now be giving something back to students exploring careers in communication in her home state.
“Both Patrick and I grew up watching Arkansas television news reporters, and I always dreamed of becoming one of them,” she said. “Our careers have taken different twists to different cities, but the dreams we had as kids are universal in students everywhere trying to better themselves and their communities. We are proud to play a small role in fulfilling those dreams for students at UA Little Rock.”
Patrick Rhode earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas in 1991 and enrolled in the UA Little Rock’s bachelor of mass communication degree program in search of a new career path. He left in 1993 – just three credit hours short of completing the degree – to work as a television reporter for the CBS affiliate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He completed the degree in 2016 and was honored as the School of Mass Communication’s Distinguished Alumnus in 2018.
The School of Mass Communication is part of the university’s College of Social Sciences and Communication, whose mission is to drive social change and to inspire human expression, reflection, and interconnection.
“Both Patrick and Leslie Rhode exemplify our mission through their work and career, but also now through their recent gift to the School of Mass Communication,” said Julien Mirivel, interim dean of the College of Social Sciences and Communication. “For generations to come, students will benefit from their gift and be able to finish their degree in spite of the many challenges they face. We are grateful for their generosity and the support for our students.”
Patrick Rhode’s career path has landed him numerous high-profile, senior executive roles in private industry and government, including special assistant to the president of the United States, NASA senior advisor, FEMA chief of staff, and associate administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration among other notable positions.
Patrick and Leslie have two children and now live in Austin, Texas, although Arkansas will always be a home close to their hearts. They say they look forward to seeing their scholarship recipients chase their dreams just as they did after graduating from Arkansas universities.
(Photo top right) Leslie and Patrick Rhode have created an endowed scholarship to assist students in the School of Mass Communication.