Recording Artist and Minister Kirk Whalum to Deliver Baccalaureate Address, Architect Jane Cady Rathbone to Receive Honorary Degree

two-view photo with man standing in front of a stained glass window on left and a head and shoulder image of woman on the right

The Baccalaureate Service of the 170th Session of Rhodes College will be held on campus Friday, May 10, followed by Commencement on Saturday, May 11. Rev. Kirk Whalum, an award-winning recording artist and an ordained minister, will deliver the Baccalaureate address. Jane Cady Rathbone, a principal of the Hanbury architectural and design firm, who has served as the campus architect of Rhodes since 2000, will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree at Commencement. 

The Baccalaureate Service on May 10 begins at 3:30 p.m. in the multi-sports forum of the Bryan Campus Life Center, and Commencement on May 11 begins at 8:30 a.m. in Fisher Memorial Garden. Seating tickets are necessary for both programs, which will be presided over by President Marjorie Hass.


Born and raised in Memphis, Whalum is a jazz saxophonist and songwriter whose accomplishments have brought him numerous honors, including 12 Grammy nominations and two Stellar Awards—Gospel music’s highest honor. In 2011, he won a Grammy award for Best Gospel Song, “It’s What I Do.” His solo albums and film soundtracks include pop, R&B, jazz, and gospel. 

Whalum comes from a family of musicians, and he grew up singing in his father’s church choir. A Melrose High School alumnus, he went on to attend Texas Southern University, where he formed a band in 1979. In the’80s and ’90s, Whalum recorded and performed with Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Barbara Streisand, Quincy Jones, and Whitney Houston, among others. He is perhaps best known for his saxophone solo on Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” In 1998, Whalum began recording a series of “The Gospel According to Jazz” albums.

Also an ordained minister, Whalum holds a master’s degree in religion from Memphis Theological Seminary, and he reads the Bible in his daily “Bible in Your Ear” podcast.

When not touring, Whalum has served the Memphis community in various ways, particularly when it comes to educating young musicians. In 2006, the Stax Music Academy in Memphis selected him as its first artist in residence. Currently, he is on faculty at Visible Music College. 

Whalum has been a part of the musical life of Rhodes for more than a decade. In 2009, he was the first artist to appear in a program sponsored by the Mike Curb Institute for Music when he performed a concert on campus and conducted a masterclass with students. Since then, he has interacted with the Rhodes community in a variety of ways, from performing on stage to sitting in classrooms with students sharing his stories and musical knowledge to serving alongside them at Manna House Memphis, which offers hospitality to those who are homeless and impoverished.


Jane Cady Rathbone, chair of the board and design principal of Virginia-based Hanbury architectural and design firm, has served as the campus architect of Rhodes since 2000 and is responsible for furthering the campus master plan. The Hanbury design philosophy is “buildings that are loved and endure, matter.”  

A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), Rathbone has positioned her firm as a leader in higher education and has a passion for creating spaces for engaged learning and student success. She also uses post-occupancy research and case studies to inform all aspects of her work, including strategic planning, programming, campus planning, and the design of award-winning campus buildings.

Rathbone led the team that conducted the Residential System Study that resulted in a renovated Stewart Hall, new conservatory social room, and the East Village residence hall complex on campus.  Rathbone’s firm also was the primary architect for the West Village residence halls that opened in 2012.  

In addition to the residential system plan, Rathbone led the Rhodes campus master plan that sited the Barret Library at the center of the campus. The library opened in 2005, and that same year the college recognized Rathbone with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for her leadership in transforming the campus.

More recently, Rathbone was responsible for the design of the Bill and Carole Troutt Quadrangle and Robertson Hall, which opened in 2017. The Bill and Carole Troutt Quadrangle—honoring the college’s 19th president and first lady—is bounded by the Barret Library, Briggs Hall, Hassell Hall, and Robertson Hall. Robertson Hall is connected to the college’s primary existing science facility, the Frazier Jelke Science Center, via an underground concourse. Rathbone’s firm also was the primary architect for the renovation of Briggs Hall.

Rhodes over the years has received many campus beauty recognitions, including being ranked the No. 1 Most Beautiful Campus in The Princeton Review’s The Best 381 Colleges, 2017 Edition. In 2018, Rhodes captured a spot on Architectural Digest’s “50 Most Beautiful Colleges in America” list.

Not only has Rathbone left her mark at Rhodes, but her design and planning imprint continues to be seen and felt on more than 150 campuses throughout the United States and abroad. Rathbone is the parent of Caroline Wright, who graduated from Rhodes in 2013.