Love affair with college as students has brought MacLaughlins back as employees, husband and wife, and as first-time parents. She had interpersonal communication. He had speech, the very next hour, in the exact same classroom. Although their paths crossed only occasionally as Cowley students, the interaction they had that spring semester of 1993 proved to be the spark that would change the course of their lives.
Rhoda Hain and Scott MacLaughlin were married on June 27, 1998. And they’ve come full circle—from Cowley alumni to Cowley employees, and first-time parents. Son Britton was born July 27, 2001. Rhoda would hang around after her IPC class, just to make eye contact with Scott, who would try to get to his speech class early. “We’d smile at each other in the hallway, but we never knew each other,” Rhoda said. It would be years before they were officially introduced.
It was the opening night of the 1996 fall semester play “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Scott’s first as Cowley’s director of technical theatre. “Kim Hockenbury (current library assistant at Cowley) was a student in Scott’s class and was working on the set of Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Rhoda said, recalling the story with pinpoint accuracy. “She introduced us. It was Nov. 7, 1996.” The next spring, Scott was busy working on the musical “Grease,” in which he performed as well as built sets. Rhoda came to a lot of set construction parties. “We got to know each other then,” said Rhoda, who was media specialist for Unified School District No. 285 in Cedar Vale at the time. “We’d stay until three in the morning sometimes talking, and I’d tell her she’d better get going because she had to work the next day,” Scott said. About 18 months later, they were married.
Now, as Cowley employees, their paths still don’t cross much, mostly because they work in separate buildings. “I really don’t ever see her,” said Scott, a Cowley employee since August 1996. “We have a very professional relationship at Cowley. The only time I see her is when it’s business-related.” Rhoda became director of library services in August 1999. It was a job she knew she wanted from the time she graduated from Cowley in May 1993. “When I was 17, I started working at the public library in Ark City,” Rhoda said. “I did that for six years. I knew I wanted to go to the (college) library when I enrolled at Southwestern.”
Rhoda, a 1991 graduate of Arkansas City High School, was a liberal arts major at Cowley. She didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew she enjoyed the library. So, when she transferred to Southwestern College, she majored in education and knew which direction she wanted to take. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Southwestern in May 1995, then went straight to Emporia State University to pursue a master’s degree in library science, which she earned in 1997. “Library science was only offered at the graduate level, and Emporia State was the only four-year university in the state at that time with library science,” she said.
Scott’s path to Arkansas City and Cowley wasn’t as direct. He grew up in tiny Yorkshire, N.Y., about an hour southeast of Buffalo in the western part of the state. After graduating from Pioneer Central High School in 1992, he enrolled at Jamestown Community College in New York. But during the summer of 1992, Scott’s dad was transferred to the Rubbermaid plant in Winfield. While his parents moved to Kansas, Scott stayed home. “I really didn’t want to move to Kansas,” Scott said. “But my first semester at Jamestown was a disaster. It was awful. My mom spoke highly of a community college in Kansas and encouraged me to come out.”
Scott enrolled at Cowley in January 1993 and got involved immediately. The theatre and everything about it attracted him, and he became a standout student in front of, and later behind, the camera. “I liked it so much in Kansas that me and some of my friends decided to go to Kansas State,” said Scott, who graduated from Cowley in May 1994. Not even another transfer of his father—to Pennsylvania in 1994—could persuade Scott to head back east. He earned a bachelor of science degree in technical theatre from K-State in May 1996. Three months later, he landed the job at Cowley. “I always worked construction jobs in the summer, so that was a good fit with theatre and all the set-building,” Scott said. “And I always thought about education and teaching. “When I was at Cowley as a student with Dejon Ewing, we would talk back stage about a new theatre. And we both thought how great it would be to get to work together on productions. That dream became a reality.” While Scott’s student acting took place in the Little Theatre in Galle-Johnson Hall, his technical theatre expertise has brought him to the Robert Brown Theatre inside the Brown Center.
The MacLaughlins are “thrilled with Cowley” and nearly everything about it. “We love Cowley,” Rhoda said. “I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of our lives here,” Scott said. “I enjoyed it so much as a student, I had to come back.” Although they don’t see much of each other during the day, they have another common bond in the evenings. Both are enrolled in the same graduate program at Wichita State University. Rhoda is scheduled to complete a master of education in curriculum and instruction next August, while Scott will finish a year later. “It’s been fun, and it’s something else that we can do together,” Scott said.