Philip A. Rhoads, a career Baltimore County Public Schools educator and former deputy superintendent, died in his sleep Jan. 11 at Beacon Hill of Eastgate Retirement Community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The former Perry Hall and Parkville resident was 92.
“I first got to know Phil when he was principal of what became Cockeysville Middle School,” said Robert Y. Dubel, a longtime Baltimore County Public Schools educator who was superintendent of county schools from 1976 until his retirement in 1992. “He was quite a guy and a good friend of mine. He was an extremely warm and friendly person with a delicious sense of humor.”
Philip Andrew Rhoads was one of 12 children of the Rev. Ernest Rhoads, a Church of God pastor, and his wife, Martha Petersen Rhoads, a homemaker. He was born in Six Lakes, Michigan, and, because of his father’s work, was raised in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and finally Gambrills, where he graduated from Arundel High School.
Dr. Rhoads earned a bachelor’s degree in 1951 from what is now Towson University, and obtained a master’s degree in education in 1957, and his Ph.D. in 1967, both from the University of Maryland.
He began his more than three-decade career with Baltimore County Public Schools in 1951 teaching both mathematics and science at Stemmers Run Junior High School, where he remained until 1959 when he was appointed vice principal.
Dr. Rhoads was principal of North Point Junior High School from 1963 until 1965, when he left for a one-year sabbatical leave. He followed that with a one-year academic leave until 1967 when he was named principal of Cockeysville Junior High School.
A year later, he transferred to the Greenwood school headquarters, becoming an area director. In 1971, he was appointed assistant superintendent, and in 1978 was named associate superintendent of physical facilities.
Dr. Rhoads was appointed deputy superintendent in 1979, a position he held until 1983, when he retired.
“Phil was the perfect deputy and I could go out of town with full confidence that everything would be taken care of. He was really very close to me,” Dr. Dubel said.
The late former Baltimore County Police Chief Cornelius J. “Neil” Behan, who died earlier this month, and Dr. Dubel, whose terms in office overlapped, became close friends.
“One day over lunch, Neil and I developed a three-pronged approach in the high schools involving anti-alcohol, anti-drug and anti-violence programs, and Phil was put in charge of administering it and connecting the staff to the police department,” Dr. Dubel said.
“Undercover police cadets were placed in the high schools and offending students were removed and attended evening high school. The program included detection, education and counseling, and once they straightened out, they could return to their former school,” he said. “Phil was a strict but fair disciplinarian.”
Dr. Dubel also unveiled the Challenge of Excellence Program covering staff, principals and teachers, which he charged Dr. Rhoads with implementing.
“William J. Bennett, who was secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, spent a day in the county and said the program was one of the best in the country and we were very, very pleased,” Dr. Dubel said.
Dr. Rhoads was passionate about music and golf.
For many years, he sang with the choir of Northside Baptist Church in Glen Oaks, and later at Woodbrook Baptist Church in Rodgers Forge, where he often “blessed worshippers,” according to a family biographical profile, with an occasional piano solo, continuing to play until he was in his 80s and 90s.
After moving from Perry Hall to the Oak Crest Village retirement community in Parkville, he entertained residents with predinner music featuring popular classics and gospel music.
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An accomplished golfer with two holes-in-one trophies, he continued playing a round of golf nearly every week into his late 80s, often with his friend Dr. Dubel.
“Phil was a golf partner of mine and he was very strict when it came to the rules, which tells me a lot about a person,” Dr. Dubel said.
In 2018, Dr. Rhoads, who was known as “Papa Phil,” moved to Grand Rapids, where he enjoyed spending holidays, birthdays and vacations with his very large extended family, family members said.
His wife of 56 years, the former Mildred Edfeldt, a former Baltimore County Public Schools kindergarten and first grade teacher, died in 2007.
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“Phil’s was a rich life that was well lived,” Dr. Dubel said.
Dr. Rhoads was a member of Church of the Servant Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids where a memorial service was held Saturday.
He is survived by a daughter, Janis Carpenter of Grand Rapids; a sister, Mary Jane Dawson of Annapolis; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.