Photograph of James E. Rhoads in the late 19th century.
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.