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Hodges’ legacy lives on at MVNU

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Nazarene University Community continues to mourn the loss of Dr. Ralph Hodges, Jr., but his presence remains strong throughout campus and in the lives of students and alumni.

Hodges, who passed away Feb. 6, 2021, was a founding member of the university’s Board of Trustees and served until 2007. In 1981, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science, and was integral to the decision-making process as the university grew from its infancy to its coming of age.

“Ralph was a huge advocate for the University in its earliest days, providing financial support and mature judgment as a trustee member. With his passing, a true giant for MVNU has passed from the scene,” said MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II.

He is most known for providing the lead gift for the R.R. Hodges Chapel and Fine Arts Center, where hundreds of students gather each week for chapel and classes. During the fundraising phase of the project, Hodges spearheaded “The Time Is Now” campaign which raised over $4.2 million.

The chapel project was delayed several times in order to meet greater demands for housing and academic buildings. On March 3, 1988, ground was finally broken on the building that would bear the name of Dr. Hodges’ father, R.R. Hodges, Sr. The building was dedicated on March 1, 1990.

“Hodges spoke of his late father, a teacher and administrator in Nazarene higher education, and who was involved in the workings of the general church,” reported the Mount Vernon News on March 2, 1990. “He echoed the words of the chapel plaque, which says, ‘this facility is named, not in the memory of a man, but in honor of his service to God and humanity. May those who enter these doors seek to embody some measure of the traits and character exemplified in this ‘servant of God and man.’”

“Later, at a reception,” according to the book, Coming of Age, Mount Vernon Nazarene College 1968-1993, “Dr. Ralph Hodges … recalled the years of planning which went into the chapel and the necessity to delay again and again its construction in deference to more pressing matters. But now groundbreaking reaffirmed the College’s commitment to ‘education for the whole person’ – including sound, challenging academics, room and encouragement for social growth, and the nurturing of the spiritual side of each student. It was a time which marked the College’s ‘coming of age.’”

The book would go on to state the opening of the chapel was the beginning of MVNC’s adulthood. With his vision coming to fruition, Dr. Hodges, along with his fellow trustees and financial supporters, solidified MVNC’s presence in higher Christian education, and provided a new home for the chapel and the Music Department.

“The lead gift from Ralph Hodges was a strategic, and I believe, prevenient gift that led us into the future of MVNC/U at that time,” said Dr. Bob Tocheff, Professor of Music. “The chapel auditorium was a critical facility change and benefit to the music department. The faculty studios, piano lab, practice rooms, Nease Rehearsal hall, and eventually Thorne Performance Hall (at first had a dirt floor) gave us ample room to operate as a music department should. Coming to work in this building is a joy.”

The 1,991-seat chapel/auditorium is filled annually during the university’s presentation of the Messiah.

“Having the beautiful chapel auditorium brought a magnificence suited perfectly to the grandeur of this masterpiece,” said Tocheff. “The beauty of this edifice with the unique stained glass windows is a welcoming facility to the public for Messiah and other events. I can’t imagine it being held elsewhere now. Because of the chapel’s beauty and its connection with our faith-based curriculum and atmosphere, I believe it will always be the center of MVNU’s campus.”

The venue also hosts baccalaureate, commencement, and many other academic and social functions.

Dr. Hodges is survived by his wife, Ruth Hodges; daughter, Sandra Richardson; grandchildren, Corinne Richardson, Elizabeth Richardson, Stephen Hodges, Michael Hodges, Auna Ehritz, Aven Hodges, and great-grandchildren, Rileigh Richardson, Jocelyn Hodges and Corban Hodges. He is preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Don and Marion; his son, Tim; and daughter, Marcia.

Even in death, Hodges continues his legacy to create disciples and educate the mind and soul of MVNU students. It was requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to either the Nazarene World Missions or the Ralph Hodges Memorial Scholarship at MVNU.

To read the full obituary, click here.

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and nine foreign countries.

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