Honoring the life (and mourning the loss) of a Center for Family Development alum — Felisha Rhodes
Last month the world lost a lovely, lively, spirited friend, Felisha Rhodes, to a courageous battle with cancer. Felisha worked for University of Minnesota Extension in the metro areas from 1993-2013. She held the positions of Community Nutrition Educator and Extension Educator, working primarily with SNAP-Ed and EFNEP.
Felisha was a staunch advocate for staff in our nutrition programs, making sure they had the tools, the support, and the resources to do their jobs well. She demanded a high level of accountability from staff, but also had a “teddy bear” side to her full of empathy and care when staff ran into challenges, personally or professionally.
When Felisha was with Extension it was the custom to have quarterly, face-to-face, multi-day meetings with the Extension Educators from across the state. Felisha was not the only one with the mindset that some of these meetings lacked “pith” and took away from more pressing work responsibilities. Many of us who worked with her remember with a chuckle how Felisha would sometimes derail these meetings with strong opinions and long stories to illustrate her points. Sharmyn Phipps recently shared with me that she would sometimes text Felisha during her filibusters, recommending she “dial it down a notch.” But once Felisha was on a roll there was no stopping her! Ultimately Felisha made excellent points, and due to her diligence, her willingness to voice her opinions, and her vision, the metro team drafted the first Extension business plan, which was referenced as a model for business planning throughout the Extension Centers thereafter.
My personal friendship with Felisha started when I was first hired with Extension, and we roomed together at an Extension conference in Duluth. She was full of advice for me as I launched my Extension career, some of which I still heed today. We also roomed together at a Family Development meeting at the Koinonia Retreat Center, at which the lodging conditions were “rustic”. She offset the discomfort of the camp-like accommodations by sneaking in beer and laughing away the evening with her colleagues.
Felisha was a registered dietician and received her Masters Degrees in Social Work and Public Health at University of Minnesota, and her undergraduate degree at Mudelein College. She was an executive officer in the US Army, a Veteran, and a Colonel in the National Guard. She was a friend, a skilled colleague, a visionary, and a hard worker. She touched many hearts during her all-too-short life, and we miss her smile, her spark, and her laughter.