Rhoads became president in 1884 before it was officially inaugurated on September 23, 1885. Before this time, the college served as a Quaker school for girls, but Rhoads helped establish Bryn Mawr as an internationally respected, non-denominational school. It was the first higher education institution to offer graduate degrees, including doctorates, to women. The first class included 36 undergraduate women and eight graduate students. At the founding Rhoads gave a brief speech honoring Joseph W. Taylor, Bryn Mawr's original founder. Rhoads served until 1894. James E. Rhoads Hall was named after him.
M. Carey Thomas followed him as the second president of the college.
- James E. Rhoads, first president of Bryn Mawr College (1884-1894), Bryn Mawr College
- James E. Rhoads Hall, Historic Campus Architecture Project
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