With retirement, professor ends family’s 54-year streak of service at CSULB

When Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) Business Professor Thomas Rhoads retired at the end of the 2009-10 academic year, he ended an astonishing record of 54 consecutive years of family service to the university– 37 of his and 17 from his father, who was also a faculty member in the campus’s College of Business Administration (CBA).
Rhoads’s father Kenneth joined the university in 1956 and was the Associated Students Professor of the Year for 1959-60. Thomas Rhoads began teaching at CSULB in 1973, and during his tenure, he received several honors and awards. In fact, father and son worked together for a single semester at CSULB before the elder Rhoads passed away from a heart attack at age 51.
“I never intended on teaching as a career,” said Rhoads, who earned his B.S. and M.B.A. from USC and his J.D. from Western State University. (Like his father and daughter, he is also a graduate of Long Beach’s Wilson High School). Instead, he became a retail stockbroker before deciding there was an easier way to make a living and became a lawyer. By 1973, he’d started law school at Western State University, teaching securities markets and finance classes at CSULB at night while attending law school during the day.
He has taught 37 years without ever taking a sabbatical. “I didn’t think I would make a career out of it, but everything worked so well for me and the students that I decided to stay,” he said.
Rhoads has served as the faculty advisor for several student organizations throughout his career, including the Hispanic Students Business Association, Hermanos Unidos and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He pioneered the CBA Minority Business Students program, which evolved into the Student Center for Professional Development. The center, currently made up of hundreds of students, provides training, assistance in securing paid internships and extensive experiences to prepare students for the business world.
Rhoads also assisted the Associated Business Students Organizational Council (ABSOC), where he significantly increased the size of the Meet the Industries Job Fair and served as president of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society for business students.
He has been named Faculty Advisor of the Year by both Associated Students Inc. and the ABSOC. In addition, he has been named three times as the CBA’s Most Valuable Professor, and last year he received the university’s Distinguished Faculty Advising Award for his work with students outside of the classroom.
Most recently, Rhoads was chosen to be the grand marshal at the Chicano-Latino Commencement ceremony this year. “Being able to connect with a group of students whose backgrounds and experiences are very different from mine, especially at a people’s university like we have here, that’s the most satisfying thing to me,” he said.
Fortunately for Rhoads, he won’t have to completely remove himself from his teaching duties because of FERP– Faculty Early Retirement Program that allows a tenured faculty member who is eligible for service retirement to retire and continue teaching one semester per year for up to five years.
“I might not retire without FERP,” Rhoads admitted, “especially since my wife said she’s not going to take notes when I talk.”

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