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Biography: Robert T. Rhode

For many decades, I have been a serious artist that has worked professionally in the field of fine art, even though my academic training and career have been in literature. Since 1976, I have been a freelance illustrator, publishing hundreds of works of art. I have drawn portraits of such luminaries as author Maya Angelou, attorney F. Lee Bailey, author Truman Capote, Star Trek producer Gene Roddenberry, entertainer Red Skelton, author James Still, and many more. I have contributed cover designs for books and journals. I am known for pastel paintings, Asian-inspired ink paintings, sumi-e, and ink-and-water-color (including acrylic). I incorporate Impressionist techniques in otherwise realistic landscapes that exhibit abstract forms. For me, creating art is relaxing, and serenity pervades my work.


I earned my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. My undergraduate degree was in English. My master’s degree was in creative writing. My doctorate was in early American literature, British and American novels, American studies (an interdisciplinary field), and creative writing. For 34 years, I served on the faculty of Northern Kentucky University; I am a professor emeritus of English. I have published 17 books. My book (with John F. Spalding) The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia is a national best seller in nonfiction. My book (with Eleanor Yeager Stewart) Desktop Grammarian for Editors was a finalist in the USA Book Awards. My book (with Judge Raymond L. Drake) Classic American Steamrollers, 1871–1935, Photo Archive won England’s Silver Jubilee Certificate. My book The Harvest Story was nominated for the prestigious Theodore Saloutos Memorial Award, given annually for the best book in American agricultural history. I have published 181 articles in books and magazines covering the subject of agriculture and literature and 63 scholarly articles. I have published an invited essay in Black Earth and Ivory Tower: New American Essays from Farm and Classroom, an anthology featuring “North America’s foremost contemporary writers on the present rural experience.” My most recent writing includes two autobiographical novels: The Farm in Pine Village and The Farm East of Pine Village. Another book is forthcoming and will soon be published in paperback by Engineers and Engines Magazine.


I have presented my research, scholarly papers, and creative work at numerous regional and national conferences and have served as an invited speaker at many academic gatherings. I have curated exhibitions at home and abroad on the nation’s agricultural heritage.


I have acted original, one-person plays depicting the lives of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. I performed over 200 productions as Poe. In the spring of 1988, the Baltimore Poe Society chose my play as the winner in a national competition and named my performance the authorized stage version of Poe’s life. The society hosted my show on Poe’s birthday in 1988 and 1990.


I was the first director of NKU’s Honors Program and served for 11 years. I received several awards at NKU. In 2009, I was profiled in Indiana University’s Alumni Magazine. In 2011, I was inducted into the Early Day Hall of Fame—primarily for my publications on the nation’s agrarian past.