By Melissa Schill
Rodney Kelvin Sisco, Wheaton College’s Director of the Office of Multicultural Development, passed away on Dec. 30, 2018 after a five-month battle with cancer.
Sisco graduated from Wheaton College in 1984 with two Bachelor’s degrees in sociology and christian education, then received his Master’s degree in educational studies in 1994.
After attending Wheaton and dedicating 34 years of service to the Wheaton community, it is clear that Rodney Sisco, “the gentle giant,” left his mark on countless faculty, staff and students. Sisco was a significant presence on Wheaton’s campus from his work in the OMD office to his mentorship of students and staff to his involvement with Wheaton’s Gospel Choir.
Fellow friend and classmate, President Philip Ryken, was quick to acknowledge that Sisco had a profound impact on the style of campus-worship style. “He’s made a significant contribution to the experience of worship on our campus … as a leader for freshman worship [and] as somebody who was a very strong proponent of the Gospel Choir,” Ryken told the Record in an email. Sisco’s commitment to this aspect of campus life is set to last much more than a lifetime.
He was known for his loving, gentle and patient spirit. Among other instances illustrating Sisco’s spirit, senior Kiki Francois, one of Sisco’s mentees and an active member in OMD organizations, recalled her initial interaction with Sisco during Orientation week her freshman year. His 6’7” frame had gotten out of the car behind her and upon greeting one another, he simply remarked, “Isn’t it wonderful today?” Francois and others who worked closely with Rodney saw his efforts to generate discussion and be a better neighbor “through the Fruits of the Spirit, through his gentleness, through his kindness, his joy, his faithfulness.”
“He loved. Oh, he loved. That man loved with every breath in his body. He put others before himself,” Francois said.
Sisco was also committed commitment to racial reconciliation which rings true in his legacy. “Pursuing unity with a Biblical understanding of diversity was Rodney’s life work,” Ryken said.
Students of the OMD attested to his hard work in pursuing unity. “Rodney wanted peace but he also wanted justice … he knew it would take some hard conversations but since we’re in the body of Christ, we’re going to get through them and we’re going to come to terms,” Francois said.
Rodney did an exemplary job in speaking truth while engaging in difficult conversations with a manner of respect, strength, and gentleness. “Even in correcting people about the assumptions and stereotypes we have about one another, he … was nurturing and allowed people to grow,” said Crystal Cartwright, current Associate Director of Student Activities and one of Sisco’s former students from 2006-2008.
Specifically, “he developed and grew our Office of Multicultural Development. All the student organizations that are part of the OMD today and just how we approach ministry, I think a lot of that comes out of Rodney’s heart, Rodney’s philosophy of ministry,” Ryken said.
Outside of Wheaton College, Sisco pursued racial reconciliation through various organizations. He was the Executive Committee’s Chair of Diversity for the Association for Christians in Student Development and also served for the Racial Harmony Commission of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the Board of the National Christian Multicultural Student Leaders Conference Inc. He was a contributing author in both “Planting Seeds of Hope: How to Reach a New Generation of African Americans with the Gospels” and “Diversity Matters: Race, Ethnicity, and the Future of Christian Higher Education.”
Sisco was also a member of the Council for College Attendance and a member of the American Association for Counseling and Development.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Hasana, a 1986 Wheaton graduate, as well as by his two sons, Juwan and Jabari.
A memorial service will be held Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in Coray Alumni Gymnasium. Students, faculty, staff, and administration are invited to share a three minute “Rodney story” to honor his legacy and life.
Brooke MacArthur contributed to reporting.