Marilyn Rhinehart

Executive VP retires

Marilyn Rhinehart, executive vice president, academic affairs, believes in “relationship leadership.” It’s one reason she’ll really miss her coworkers at JCCC when she retires Dec. 31, 2012. 

“I don’t know if that’s really a management philosophy – ‘relationship leadership’ – but it is my philosophy. I feel that if you take a few moments to really listen to a person, find out a little bit about them, ask them about how things are going and really mean it, it creates an atmosphere where people are valued, and things get done,” she said. 

Rhinehart’s own relationship with three JCCC employees, now retired, was the catalyst for her move to Kansas. 

She had been a born-and-bred Texan, the daughter of a Methodist minister who spent a few years in one church before moving to the next. She grew up in the steamy heat of Houston, followed by the picturesque pine trees of Nacogdoches in east Texas. 

“As a hobby, my father planted pine trees,” she said. That sense of environmentalism, combined with her love of history, sparked the topic of her master’s thesis: the history of the forest conservation movement in Texas. 

After finishing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, Rhinehart started teaching as an adjunct instructor at North Harris College (now part of the Lone Star College System). Her two children were young, and she valued the flexibility of her academic schedule. Soon, however, she would take a full-time position at the college, teaching American history. 

She also began work on her doctorate degree. At the time, she sensed that few in her cohort group thought she would finish. After all, she was a working mother with so many demands on her time. 

“I’m the kind of person, though, that if you tell me I can’t do it, then it will make me want it all the more,” she said. She finished her doctorate, poring over census records from a north central Texas coal-mining town to complete her dissertation. 

Her path to JCCC occurred, depending on your point of view, by either fate or accident. 

“I’m not one of those people who had a path,” Rhinehart said. “I just sort of fell into jobs, fell into (leadership) roles. To some extent, that’s been the story of my life.” 

Her supervisor at North Harris had signed up for a leadership seminar in Arizona, but at the last minute, he couldn’t go. He asked Rhinehart if she wanted to take his place. 

At the seminar, Rhinehart met former JCCC employees Joe Gadberry, Bill Lamb and Helen Burnstad. They all became fast friends, staying in touch even after the seminar ended. 

It wasn’t long before Lamb called and asked if she’d be interested in being the dean for the arts, humanities and social studies at JCCC. 

She almost didn’t make it to the interview. Her plane was delayed, and she spent the time she should have been interviewing stuck in the Omaha airport, watching the hands of the clock spin unmercifully. 

When she finally arrived in Kansas City six hours late, she was interviewed by a formidable committee. One committee member asked her, “Is what we see what you are?” 

She replied in humor, “I think I’m actually better than this,” she said. The committee members laughed. Hours later, even before she was on the plane back to Texas, she had a job offer. 

Andy Anderson, dean, English, will be assuming some of the responsibilities of executive vice president, since the search for Rhinehart’s replacement has been delayed until a new president is selected. (Current president Terry Calaway is retiring in August 2013.) 

“Working with Dr. Rhinehart has been a joy and an honor,” Anderson said.  “She models thoughtfulness and reflection—she doesn't jump to conclusions. She tries to nurture positive actions and does so in a friendly and hopeful manner.  She reminds us that people come to conclusions for many reasons, and that judging those conclusions too quickly usually overlooks important issues.” 

Rhinehart said she’s proud of her role in facilitating the revision of the college’s general education statement, the development of an associate’s degree in general education and the reshaping of how the college approaches developmental education. 

There are numerous other things she could add during her 17-year tenure at JCCC, she said.  She enjoys “being where the action is” and having had a part in and helping others to carry through on initiatives that have emerged in her seventeen years at JCCC.