Rodenberger, Molcie Lou Halsell (1926–2009)

By: Rebecca Matthews

Type: Biography

Published: April 30, 2021

Updated: May 1, 2021


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Molcie Lou Halsell Rodenberger, author and educator, is best-known for her studies of Texas women writers. Known by the name Lou, she was the eldest of two daughters and was born to Austin Carl and Annie Mabel (Falls) Halsell in Okra, Eastland County, Texas, on September 21, 1926. Her parents were both educators who moved frequently around West Texas during Lou’s childhood, so she attended a number of different schools. Her father, also a Methodist minister, and mother organized churches in the small communities where they taught (see LITERATURE). 

Lou remained committed to the values taught by her parents as she became both a lifelong Methodist and an educator. At the age of sixteen, she graduated valedictorian from Anson High School and then earned a B.S. degree in journalism from Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University) in June 1947. While in college, she worked on the student newspaper, the Daily Lasso, and served as the paper’s business manager her senior year. She also was a member of the James H. Lowry Literary Club, Kappa Alpha Mu, and Theta Sigma Phi, an honorary organization for women in journalism.

After graduation Lou Halsell worked for the Kerrville Times as the society editor, then moved to Levelland, Texas, to teach high school English and journalism. There she met Charles A. Rodenberger, a petroleum engineer. The couple married on September 3, 1949, at First Methodist Church in Levelland. While they raised their two children, Kathryn Sue and Mark, Charles Rodenberger changed the focus of his career from petroleum to aerospace engineering. He earned a master’s degree in Engineering from Southern Methodist University and worked for General Dynamics Aerospace. For General Dynamics, he designed rocket fuel tanks that were considered by NASA for use in the second stage of the Saturn V launch during the Apollo missions, but the design by North American Aviation was accepted for the spacecraft (see LYNDON B. JOHNSON SPACE CENTER). He then received a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas while he taught in the engineering department at Texas A&M University in College Station.

When Texas A&M University began admitting women in 1963, Lou Rodenberger became one of the first female graduate students to attend the university. She earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English and was honored as the outstanding graduate student teacher. She also taught at A&M and Blinn College for a time before she and her family moved to the Abilene, Texas, area, where Lou briefly taught at Cooper High School and Cisco Junior College before beginning her twelve-year tenure at McMurry University. She retired from McMurry as a professor emeritus and was twice honored as an outstanding faculty member.

Lou Rodenberger edited or authored a number of books and articles. Her best-known works include Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own (1997) and Let’s Hear It: Stories by Texas Women Writers (2003), both co-edited with Sylvia Grider; Quotable Texas Women (2005), co-edited with Susan Kelly Flatau; and Jane Gilmore Rushing: A West Texas Writer and Her Work (2006), an authored biography (see RUSHING, MABEL JANE GILMORE). Twice Rodenberger was honored with the Stirrup Award from the Western Writers of America for articles in their Roundup Magazine. She served as a regent for Texas Woman’s University, where she was a distinguished alumna. In 2001 she was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters and later served as a director. She was a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association, the West Texas Historical Association, and the Texas Folklore Society and served as president of the latter two organizations. She also served on the executive committee of the Western Literature Association and the Board of Western Writers.

Lou Halsell Rodenberger lost her battle with cancer and died on April 9, 2009, in Cross Plains, Texas. Her funeral service was held at First Methodist Church in Cross Plains, and she was buried at Admiral Cemetery in Callahan County, Texas. Upon her death, Texas Tech University Press honored her by creating the Lou Halsell Rodenberger Prize in Texas History and Literature to be given to a manuscript on or by a woman whose writing illuminates Texas history, culture, and letters. The award was a fitting tribute to a woman who spent her life as a scholar and mentor. In addition, Texas Woman’s University honored Rodenberger by renaming the library’s Woman’s Collection in her memory. As of 2020 the second floor to the Blagg-Huey Library housed the Lou Halsell Rosenberger exhibit that highlighted different aspects of her life.

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Abilene Reporter-News, March 27, 1976. Anson Western Enterprise, September 29, 1943. Austin American, June 27, 1947. Charles A. Rodenberger, Ph. D.,” Granbury Writers Bloc (http://granburywritersbloc.com/ charles-a-rodenberger-ph-d/) accessed April 8, 2021. Sarah Connell, “Press Annouces Lou Halsell Rodenberger Prize,” Texas Tech Today, July 14, 2016 (https://today.ttu.edu/posts/2016/07/Rodenberger), accessed April 8, 2021. Denton Record-Chronicle, May 6, 1946. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 10, 2009. Jones County Western Observer, October 20, 1944.

Categories:

  • Women
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
  • Literature
  • Awards and Honors
  • Academics
  • Scholars, Editors, and Critics
  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

Places:

  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Rebecca Matthews, “Rodenberger, Molcie Lou Halsell,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 21, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rodenberger-molcie-lou-halsell.

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April 30, 2021
May 1, 2021

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