Braxton Rethwisch Passes Away at 78

Braxton.JPGThe year of 2020 has seen the loss of legends and icons in nearly every realm of pop culture, sports, and public service. And now, sadly, the same can be said about Central Methodist University.

Monday morning, the Central community was struck with the news of the death of Braxton P. Rethwisch ’64, the university’s longtime admissions counselor and former senior regional director of admissions. Rethwisch passed away in his home at the age of 78, surrounded by his family, including his wife Judy (Engel) Rethwisch ’65.

“There are precious few true living legends at Central,” said CMU President Roger Drake. “Today, there is one fewer.”

Born and raised in Fayette, Rethwisch graduated from Fayette High School in 1960 before attending Central Methodist College. At Central, he was heavily involved in the Alpha Phi Gamma (Mokers) fraternity and served as the business manager of the Ragout yearbook before graduating with a bachelor’s degree. On the heels of his graduation, Rethwisch began working at his alma mater, as an assistant to then-President Ralph Woodward. Two years later, he started his tenure in the admissions office, and the rest is history.

“Essentially that’s what he did for the rest of his life,” said Jim Steele ‘64, Rethwisch’s classmate and longtime friend. “He was the go-to person for eastern Missouri. Braxton was quite an icon.”

Indeed, Rethwisch’s reputation for being an “old-school” admissions counselor who really got to know the students and families he worked to recruit preceded him. He built relationships not only with those students and families, but with teachers, counselors, coaches, and music directors, all for the sake of learning how best to help guide students and to know their needs. His work was fruitful, bringing in an average of more than 50 new freshmen each year, and as many as 70 during the great years.

But his legend doesn’t end with those he recruited to the Fayette campus. Rethwisch was directly involved in laying the groundwork for Central Methodist’s network of partnerships with community colleges throughout the state, along with then-President Joe Howell. Today, that network consists of 18 different locations where students can earn CMU degrees while studying at other sites.

“Braxton’s ability to think ‘big picture’ allowed him to be one of the initial creators of our off-campus satellite programs,” said Bill Sheehan ’84, vice president for advancement and alumni relations. “Without these programs, I truly am not sure of the status of CMU today. He may have provided Central with the new idea that re-established the university in the educational marketplace.”

Sheehan and other members of the Central community who knew Rethwisch agree that his contributions to the school made him an invaluable employee, but the man behind those ideas and efforts was just as impactful.

“I had the pleasure to sit with Braxton and just talk, be it Central, family matters, or his views on some worldly event,” Sheehan said of the University Service Award winner from 2015. “He was a special man.”

Aside from his work for Central, Rethwisch was an active member of the Fenton community, especially in the Rotary Club, and also maintained his boyhood home in Fayette. He received his master’s degree from St. Louis University, and was bestowed with an honorary doctorate by Central in 2016.

Though one chapter of his legacy of helping students achieve their dreams has closed, another will live on. A scholarship in his name is awarded annually to five students through the Missouri Association for College Admission Counseling, and a Hall of Sponsors fund bearing his name was established by the Mokers in 2015.

Rethwisch is survived by his wife Judy, their two children Carter and Christine, and five grandchildren. Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, December 3, at Kutis Affton Chapel in St. Louis. Funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Friday at Our Savior Lutheran Church, with internment following at Park Lawn Cemetery.

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