Friends and loved ones of Rev. Dr. Cedric Rodney gathered at Home Moravian Church in Old Salem on Tuesday to bid goodbye to the cherished mentor, community servant and teacher.
Rodney passed away on Nov. 20, just weeks before he and his wife, Dr. Mae Lipscomb Rodney, director of Library Services at Winston-Salem State University, would’ve celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.
Rodney, a native of Georgetown, Guyana, served nearly 30 years over two stints as pastor of St. Philips Moravian Church in Old Salem and recently retired from his post as James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religion and Ethics at WSSU, ending an esteemed academic career that spanned four decades. When he took leadership at St. Philips – the oldest standing African American church in North Carolina – Rodney became the first full time pastor of the 146 year-old organization, and the first ordained minister of African heritage to serve in the Southern Province of the Moravian Church.
“Today, we are witnessing the passing of someone who influenced and guided the lives of many of us,” concluded Conrad Mitchell, chairman of the Trustee Board at St. Philips. “The name St. Philips is synonymous with Dr. Rodney, and Dr. Rodney is synonymous with St. Philips.”
The 88 year-old was well known in the local sector for his dedication to community service and commitment to his faith. Rev. Richard “Rick” Sides, pastor of Home Moravian Church, said the father of three led “a long and faithful life.
“The number of lives he touched with his winsome smile, hearty handshake and encouraging words is innumerable,” Sides remarked. “…He encouraged all of us to be what You (God) created us to be … to find life’s greatest meaning in serving others.”
Nearly 300 were in attendance, many of whom hailed from Winston-Salem State University, the Moravian community or one of the many community agencies Rodney worked with over the years. WSSU Provost Brenda Allen offered prepared remarks from former WSSU Chancellor Alvin Schexnider, who established the school’s Distinguished Service awards in 1997 and later named them in Rodney’s honor, and current Chancellor Donald Reaves, both of whom were unable to attend the 11 a.m. service.
“Cedric truly filled the role of a counselor and advisor to many of the students, faculty and staff on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. We all knew that he was someone we could depend on to share his wisdom and his insight,” Allen said, reading Reaves’ remarks. “We will always treasure the gift of having known Dr. Cedric Rodney.”
Allen, who has served as provost since 2009, hailed Rodney as “the moral compass” for students, faculty and staff. She said Rodney’s ethical leadership and strong convictions made him “a true hero that should serve as an example for all of us.
“Often underestimated because of his calm and level manner, Dr. Rodney was a tenacious fighter when it comes to accomplishing what he wanted to do,” she declared. “…He was a remarkable human being who has left his mark on this community. His legacy at Winston-Salem State University will forever shape the university.”
In accordance with Moravian tradition, the Rt. Rev. Graham Rights read a memoir he had helped Rodney to write. The memoir looked back on Rodney’s long life, beginning with his childhood experiences, many of which were informed by his family’s strong commitment to the Christian faith, and highlighting the myriad accomplishments, accolades and personal milestones he achieved over the course of his adult life. Rodney was an avid traveler who collected clocks and dabbled in photography and amateur radio, but his greatest passion lay within the work he did as a preacher and teacher, Rights said. Rodney had led the prayer at WSSU football games since the 1970s and, until his retirement in August, had never missed a game, according to the memoir. Rights said Rodney brought that same dedication to every personal and professional endeavor he took on.
“He loved people and he loved his community,” Rights declared. “He was a good friend to all who knew him. They found him conscientious and caring. He did his best in whatever he undertook.”
Dr. Rodney was buried in Old Salem’s God’s Acre cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to WSSU Friends of the Library, 227 O’Kelly Library, 27110 or to St. Philips Moravian Church, 3002 Bon Air Avenue, 27105.