Home In Memory In Memory of Psychologist Rockland ‘Anthony’ Rhodes, PhD (12 September 1954 – 02 January 2021)

In Memory of Psychologist Rockland ‘Anthony’ Rhodes, PhD (12 September 1954 – 02 January 2021)

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I am sure there are many others who knew Dr Rockland “Anthony” Rhodes better than I did, but the short time I knew him touched me enough to feel compelled to honour him in some small way. I also had opportunities to know him on a deeper level than possibly some others. Since he sometimes confided in me as a friend, I heard some of his vulnerabilities and humanness that I know some people didn’t see.

So many aspects of his life I never knew; it both sucks and was an honour to get to know him better posthumously through talking with his family, friends, students, and others. 

For example, at his memorial service was the first time I knew his mum nicknamed him “Rocky.” Although I heard he hated his first name and we simply knew him as Anthony, the nickname seemed adequate; given his massive biceps, he did bear resemblance to Stallone’s Rocky, even though when his mum first called him Rocky his arms were puny. 

I had known Dr Rhodes since the Spring of 2017 when, as coordinator of the Psychology Department at Webster University Thailand, he interviewed me for a position there (as counselling centre director and psychology faculty member). Anthony was the second person I met at Webster University. I found him to be highly professional and knowledgeable during that interview. While his interview questions were strict, serious and challenging, that made me realise he knew psychology well and that it would be a serious enough job that helped me choose to accept it.

Since that interview, I worked under him while he served as the psychology department head and alongside him as a colleague. I would also consider him a friend. And a father figure.

Based on my experience with him, I believe that Dr Rhodes was a competent, professional, passionate and ethical researcher, professor, and supervisor. I attended two international conferences with him where he presented at both; one of which he gave the keynote address. His research appears to be well-designed, evidence-based and highly relevant. Moreover, he was an engaging and effective speaker. 

He was particularly passionate about effective teaching with high standards and an emphasis on student learning and growth. Some say he was too strict and demanding as a professor. Many didn’t understand his standards, commitment to social justice, ethical morals, and desire in the end to help others. Deki Yezer, one of his Bhutanese students, captures this essence perfectly:  “I think Dr Rhodes was very misunderstood. Behind his tough exterior, he was a very gentle soul. I think he pushed us because he knew we could be better. I’ve personally had wonderful experiences with him and especially as my adviser he was very hands-on and helped me a lot. It is unfortunate he couldn’t make it. He was a great professor.”

Su Lay May, one of his colleagues expressed similar sentiments that he was “quiet and reserved” and seemed “like he does not care”.

“But he was willing to listen and give moral support when you needed it the most. When our department was closed down, he gave us nice motivating and encouraging advice.” 

Deki, Anthony, and I published a paper together based on her thesis. Deki explains how it was to have him as her adviser: “He would always tell me that I should aim high and always encouraged and motivated me to do more and be more.” She stated he was invested in her success in psychology and often checked in with her about her father who expressed concerns about her chosen major the one time Anthony met him. “I think that just shows what kind of professor he was.”

He taught a wide range of psychology courses (his previous faculty profile listed 19 different ones), many of which he developed on his own, with a very diverse student population. Moreover, Dr Rhodes had ample experience advising diverse students not only on research but on careers in psychology in multiculturally competent ways. He was so into psychology mentorship that he voluntarily assisted his wife, Chaipon “Jan”, and her classmates so much in getting their masters in counselling that they stated he deserved to be awarded an honorary degree.  

Besides psychology, Dr Rhodes’ also had vast knowledge and experience in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). He founded the New Life Counseling Center in Bangkok and was the founding director of Quantum Holistic Therapy, a CAM provider. On his LinkedIn, he stated he was “versed in bioenergy treatment that supports and catalyse bio-systems of the human body to promote various healing outcomes’ through soul retrieval, psychic protection, intuitive and psychic skill development.”

Anthony expressed that such treatments can lead “to extraordinary healing” of many common mental health maladies and even physical pain by “energetically recalibrating the body’s bio-systems”. When I myself was seriously hospitalised, he expressed deep concern for my well-being and offered me free energy treatments after my release along with expert nutritional and exercise advice to regain my strength.  

Anthony attempted to empirically validate the benefits of CAM through his research which led him to being a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Spirituality and Psychology (ICSP 2018). 

At that conference, he met Dr Margaret Trey, herself an accomplished researcher, healer, and author, who was impressed with his presentations on energy healing to reduce stress and anxiety. She tried her best to share her own energy healing for him during his last days in the hospital. She states: “I feel a great affinity with Dr Rhodes’ passion for energy healing and quantum psychology”. She expressed gratitude and humility for the “lasting, positive connections” with others she forged through Anthony. “His untimely departure is truly a great loss,” she concluded. 

Through the same conference, Anthony worked closely with Vladimir Mladjenovic, the founding director of the conference’s host organisation, in Anthony’s role as a member of the scientific committee along with facilitating bringing many students to the conferences over the years. Vladimir expressed that the “ICSP community lost a distinguished scholar and a great friend, a great supporter – who made an invaluable contribution to what this conference has become over the years.”

ICSP 2021 opened in memory of Anthony and was dedicated in his honour. “This will be the first ICSP without Anthony being present – without one of his breakthrough researches. The foundation that we built together guarantees that he will always be with us and his legacy will live forever.” 

Besides working extensively in high crime and poverty inner-city areas in the US, Anthony contributed meaningfully through philanthropy, foundation building, and charity work. He was involved in a number of development and social relief projects internationally over the course of many years. He started his international work as a youth missionary and eventually pastor in Southeast Asia.  Later, he branched into educational, mental health, and development projects in countries like Myanmar, Serbia, Thailand, Vietnam, Netherlands, Siberia, Russia, and India. He even started a podcast called Psychology Matters in Thailand to promote psychology. 

Besides believing in the empiricism of the scientific method, Anthony was a deeply religious and spiritual man and seemed to have tried to spread that belief throughout his life. His daughter, Nicole Rhodes, like others, described Anthony as being “highly intelligent, deeply philosophical, and above all spiritual”. She went on to say he “always believed so strongly in the power of prayer and whatever you ask for in prayer you will receive in faith.”

Prior to Anthony recently becoming a psychologist, he had an extensive career as a missionary and pastor during which time he met Leena Okafor in 1998 in Thailand. He not only was a role model and mentor for her and her husband – but now both also pastors – while they were growing spiritually and as Christian leaders, he officiated their marriage. Leena fondly remembers him as “a great mentor and a great teacher to me and his encouraging words will always be remembered.” 

Dr Anthony’s educational achievements were well-rounded as well as impressive. He was both a master fitness instructor and a certified personal trainer. He was a certified Karuna Reiki Master. He was trained in Chi Kung, Shuang Yang Tai Chi, and Shaolin Tiger Crane Kung Fu. I remember he brought one of his master martial arts teachers to speak and work with our students who were impressed with this perspective and how it relates to psychology. 

In terms of formal education, Anthony held a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Wheaton College where he attended on a full scholarship. In 2015 he received a PhD from Capella University in cognitive neuropsychology with a 4.0 GPA. 

Anthony appeared to have high ethical values along with a strong work ethic. Interpersonally, I experienced him as open, honest, ethical, insightful, and with a mindset for quality and improvement. But, no one is perfect, and I know not everyone liked or got along with Anthony. His “tough love” style, muscular frame, and domineering persona were intimidating for many. Others found him to be self-centred and opinionated (but aren’t we all that way at times?). I always found he backed up his opinions with empirical research. 

While he certainly loved to talk and often focused on his own agenda in conversations, he also regularly showed an interest in my success and often warned me and checked in about burnout, which is all too common in our fields. He also frequently took students’ first perspective and expressed concerns when policies and practices that did not reflect students’ or even the university’s best interests.

It was hard to pull away from him once we got talking which happened often when running into each other around campus and town. I regret we didn’t have more time to chat as he had a broad understanding of the Thai language and culture, politics, sociocultural perspectives and of course psychology.

Just months before his passing, Anthony was optimistic and confident that the natural and energy healing practices he was engaging in had reversed the dangers associated with the chronic illness he had. He recounted excitedly about his recent progress on almost finishing his book on Quantum energy healing. He was looking forward to moving back to the US to live close to family after more than 25 years as an expat and talked passionately about jobs he was applying for there. Even in his last days in the hospital, he was surprisingly optimistic, grateful, smiling, and joking with the hospital staff.

Deki reminds us that we need to prioritise relationships when we have a chance because “life is unpredictable”. She went on to say: “His belief in me made me believe in myself and I feel so terrible that I could not express this to him when I could.”

In closing, I’ll share Anthony’s own words on the Covid pandemic that was raging when he passed on to the spirit world: “Focusing and reflecting on psychological responses amidst a crisis of this nature is often overlooked.  Embedded within the stay-at-home mandate is the compelling opportunity to take a ‘time out’ from one’s busy schedule and reflect upon what’s showing in the theatre of the mind and emotions.”

Anthony, everyone expressed that it’s a shame to lose such a valuable resource and that your potential was cut short. Even your haters wished you more life and well in the end. I hope you continue to assign academically rigorous term papers up in heaven and keep stirring things up in your controversial way.

Rest in peace.

Selected publications

Amoneeta Beckstein, PhD is a multicultural positive counselling psychologist. He is a professor at Fort Lewis College.

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