The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXV
No. 6
Cover
November/December
2009

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by David Halbrook
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Hodel Center Dedication a Tribute to a Beloved Friend

As the United States Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps marched out of the gymnasium to rousing applause, Patrick Henry College President Dr. Graham Walker launched the dedication of the new Barbara Hodel Center.

Barbara Hodel cuts the ribbon for PHC's Hodel Center.
PHC/Art Cox
Barbara Hodel cuts the ribbon, officially opening the PHC student center which bears her name.
...
“I KNEW RIGHT
THERE THAT I WAS
IN THE PRESENCE OF
A SPIRITUAL GIANT.”
...

With Barbara Hodel sitting in the front row with her husband, Don, what followed was a glowing tribute to the woman whose early, ardent support helped sustain the college through its first decade. Having cut the ribbon to dedicate PHC nearly 10 years earlier, Mrs. Hodel watched Saturday’s proceedings from her wheelchair, two years after a fall in her home left her mostly paralyzed. Yet it was the strong spirit of a woman Dr. Farris described as “spunky and delightful, with a twinkle in her eye and a song in her heart” that dominated an afternoon given over to song, prayer, and testimonies of God’s faithfulness.

On hand to celebrate Mrs. Hodel and the completion of the $33-million Center bearing her name were some 1,000 students, alumni, families, and guests gathered to bear witness to her life.

Early Impressions

College founder and Chancellor Dr. Michael Farris reminisced on his first impressions of Mrs. Hodel, citing her “wealth of experience in leadership positions” as integral to the college’s early success. Yet it was her personal courage following her devastating injury that proved most inspirational.

“The reason this building is named after Barbara is because of what I saw that day,” Dr. Farris recalled. “She had a breathing tube, and yet there was joy radiating from her countenance. She could not move, yet her contentment was palpable. I knew right there that I was in the presence of a spiritual giant.”

“I hope her spirit will speak to our students in the years to come,” he added, “to love God, to have faith in God, when the storms of life come.”

Introducing Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Dr. Farris credited the Dobsons’ early books and radio broadcasts with spurring him and his wife, Vickie, to pursue homeschooling in 1982. He also credited Dr. Dobson with heralding the need for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Dr. James Dobson
PHC/Art Cox
Founder of Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson delivered the keynote address challenging PHC students to answer God’s call.

Keynote Address

In his 30-minute address, Dr. Dobson shared anecdotes, recounting his childhood, life, and ministry, and acknowledging many heroes of his faith. Among his heroes were his father, James, a noted preacher in his own right, and Don and Barbara Hodel. He recalled when Don, who served as Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Interior under President Reagan, came to Focus in 2003 to serve as an unpaid president and CEO.

“Don came with no salary,” Dobson recalled jovially. “I asked Don to ‘ask Barbara to be a part of everything you’re involved in.’ I’m no dummy; I got two for the price of none.”

Addressing the Hodels directly, he said, “I’ve watched the two of you and your love for each other from a distance. Through the hardships, you've not yielded to despair but have hung on to each other.”

Segueing into an episode about his own wife Shirley’s comical attempts to find a “ringing cell phone in a crowded movie theater,” Dobson used the analogy to speak pointedly to PHC students and alumni about God’s call on their lives.

“Who will answer the call?” he asked, recounting his own father’s turbulent youth, when, as a talented young artist, James Sr. resisted God’s explicit call to ministry. Whereas his father later relented, following a season of defiance, and embarked on a flourishing preaching ministry, Dobson cautioned against the tragedy of turning a deaf ear to God’s call. Had his father persisted, he said, he would have missed winning “tens of thousands of people to the Lord,” as he did in years to come.

Calling a New Generation

Noting the death of his friend, evangelist D. James Kennedy, Dobson asked who among today’s youth will fill the shoes of a passing generation of spiritual giants.

“The question is will the younger generation heed the call?” he asked. “Who in the next generation will be willing to take the heat, when it’s so much safer and more comfortable to avoid controversial subjects? Who is going to defend traditional morality in a culture sliding into moral decline? Who will call sin by its name and lead the nation to holiness?”

“We have a wonderful heritage,” Dr. Dobson concluded. “May God help the younger generation carry on the work of their forbearers.’

Don Hodel then beckoned Shirley Dobson, who, together with a dozen or so other friends and trustees, laid hands on and prayed for Barbara. Dr. Farris concluded the ceremony in prayer: “We dedicate not only this building but also ourselves to Your service, Lord, and we ask You to raise up those who will conquer the giants in the land and answer the call for Christ and for liberty.”

The audience filed out of the full gymnasium for a final ribbon-cutting ceremony that saw Barbara, with husband Don’s assistance, once again taking up scissors to officially christen the new campus life center.


About the author

David Halbrook is the director of communications at Patrick Henry College.