Family and Friends of Thearon and Pearl Rhoads - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Thearon J. and Pearl H. Rhoads Scholarship | Est. 1986
brick engraved with name Family and Friends of Thearon and Pearl Rhoads

Family and Friends of Thearon and Pearl Rhoads

The University of Tulsa is justifiably proud of its strong athletics program, but it couldn’t exist without the support and enthusiasm of loyal alumni and friends. Thearon J. “Dusty” and Pearl Rhoads have certainly been two of TU’s biggest fans. Over the years, the couple gained a reputation as strong supporters of Golden Hurricane Basketball, attending almost every game and tournament during the season. And she was the driving force behind this fervor.

The longtime Tulsans began attending games decades ago, when TU played at the fairgrounds – Mrs. Rhoads insisted. Her husband liked basketball, “but I love it,” she told others. Her love of the game began when she was in high school. Although petite and barely over five feet tall, “I went to a little bitty school and everybody played,” she said. “They didn’t have the cute little uniforms they do now; we wore bloomer-type uniforms instead.”

The Rhoads’ support soon went beyond game attendance and ticket purchases. For many years, the couple hosted a “Meet the Coach” event in their home for about 20 diehard fans. That was Mr. Rhoads’ idea; he knew his wife loved to make desserts and could create the perfect menu for an informal event. The reception quickly became well-known, and it was an honor to be invited.

But the Rhoads’ story began long before they became ardent TU basketball fans. During the Great Depression, Pearl Hagle’s parents were trying to find a way to finance her college education. The Tulsa Business College was offering half-scholarships for its $250 tuition. “That was a lot of money back in those days,” Mrs. Rhoads said. “I don’t know how they did it, but my parents scraped up $125,” and young Pearl, barely 16, left her family’s farm in central Oklahoma and arrived in Tulsa. The school had arranged for students to room with local families in return for household help. Her hosts, the Miller family, simply wanted her to be a companion to their pre-teen daughter.

Dusty had come from Seminole to attend the college. He sat behind Pearl in class, but she didn’t meet him until three years later. One day, they were both at the train depot on their way to visit family. Dusty approached her and said, “Aren’t you Pearl Hagle?” Even though she did not recognize him, they talked until their trains arrived. When she returned to Tulsa a week later, Dusty called to invite her to a movie, and she turned him down. “I barely knew him,” she exclaimed. But faint heart ne’er won fair lady – and Dusty was persistent. They finally went to a movie, began dating and married about a year later.

At a time when most women did not work after marriage, Pearl Rhoads managed a secretarial career, keeping flexible hours so that she could care for the couple’s two daughters, TU alumnae Lynda Rhoads Wright (BS ’69; MS ’71) and Janet Rhoads Hayes (BS ’72; MS ’81). Pearl worked for some of the most well-known businessmen in town. Dusty Rhoads had found a job after graduation working as a bookkeeper at Keener Oil — a job that eventually led him to be managing partner of the firm owned by the prominent Bartlett family. Pearl filled in for one of the firm’s ailing secretaries and ended up working there for several years. She also worked for Flint Steel executive Charles Gannaway. She ran the campaign office for Mayor James Hewgley, never meeting him during that time, but it led to a job with him for 45 years.

When Mr. Rhoads retired in 1986, Keener Oil’s owners, the Bartlett family, honored the couple by establishing the Thearon J. and Pearl H. Rhoads Scholarship. The scholarship has a special provision; it honors Byron Boudreaux (BS ’87), an outstanding guard who wore the number “21”. Mr. Rhoads was fond of Boudreaux, and the annual scholarship is given to the player who wears this number. (If the number is retired, the scholarship may be given to another member of the team.) Past recipients include Shea Seals, another outstanding player, who has returned to work at his alma mater.

Mr. Rhoads passed away on January 14, 2006, but not before leaving his mark on his community. He served several terms on the Board of Trustees of Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, which he joined in 1943. He served on the Board of Directors of the Francis E. Willard Home for Girls and was active in other volunteer organizations, including Restore Hope.

In 2012, Mrs. Rhoads became a resident of Oklahoma Methodist Manor, where she enjoyed the wide range of activities offered there until she passed away in 2021 at the age of 100.

For The University of Tulsa, Dusty and Pearl Rhoads are exceptional examples of loyal friends and supporters who have helped TU Athletics achieve important goals. The TU family, the TU Department of Athletics and its basketball program are ever grateful for the generosity that created this very special scholarship.