Dr. Susan Henking Appointed 14th President of Shimer College; First Woman Named President Since Founder Frances Wood Shimer
Susan E. Henking, Ph.D., Adviser to the Board of Trustees “Futures Thinking and Strategic Planning Initiative” within the Office of the President at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, has been elected the 14th President of Shimer by the College Board of Trustees. Sally Brown, Chair of the Shimer Board of Trustees, announced the appointment on Thursday in a letter to the Shimer community.
Dr. Henking will take office on July 1, 2012 and succeeds Ed Noonan, who has served as Interim President since 2010.
Dr. Henking trained in Religious Studies, receiving her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Duke University in 1977. Dr. Henking’s academic career is distinguished by an extensive publication record of scholarly works on religion, psychology, the history of sociology, gender, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, diversity, and leadership in higher education. She is also co-editor of two books, Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology (New York: Continuum, 1997) and Mourning Religion (University of Virginia Press, 2008), and founding series editor of the Teaching Religious Studies Series forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
Dr. Henking is the first woman to be appointed President of Shimer College since its founding. In 1853, Frances Wood (later Frances Shimer) founded the Mount Carroll Seminary together with her fellow schoolteacher Cinderella Gregory, relocating from New York State to western Illinois to provide a formal education for a local population that had no access to public schools.
Dr. Henking said, “I am thrilled to be joining Shimer College, following in the footsteps of founders Cinderella Gregory and Frances Wood Shimer in coming from upstate New York to Chicago. Shimer is an exciting place: asking enduring question in new times, and creating and sustaining responsible citizen intellectuals. I am looking forward to working with faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and the many friends of Shimer in the coming years.”
In addition to her extensive, internationally recognized scholarship, Dr. Henking is Professor of Religious Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and teaches numerous courses in Religious Studies, Women’s Studies, and General Education. Her courses are ranked highly by her students, who appreciate her as a challenging, thorough, and insightful instructor. During her 24-year tenure at Hobart and William Smith, Dr. Henking has also held many administrative positions. She has twice been Chair of the Department; in addition, she has served as Interim Dean of the Faculty, and Acting Provost and Dean of the Faculty. In her leadership roles in liberal arts administration, Dr. Henking has worked to balance financial responsibility and academic vision by seeking innovative ways to pursue institutional commitments. This focus has also characterized her work at HERS, the nationally pre-eminent organization working with women in academic leadership roles where Henking was Senior Research Associate, and at the American Council of Education where she was a Fellow in 2009-2010.
Dr. Henking grew up in Paoli, PA, where, according to her sister Patricia Henking of Merrimack, NH, she spent a great deal of time reading library books. She lives with her partner, Betty M. Bayer, a Professor of Women’s Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Dr. Bayer, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, is an internationally recognized feminist historian and theorist of psychology, and a graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa.
Described by colleagues as a courageous thinker, both original and varied, whose greatest passion is teaching and whose most indelible mark on her students is her intervention on behalf of principle and the rights of all, Dr. Henking has received many honors for teaching and scholarship, including the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. She served for 9 years on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the Reader’s Guide to Lesbian and Gay Studies. Her interests and scholarly expertise are deep as well as broad, and the cultural canon on which she draws includes the literary, social scientific, historical, philosophical, and culinary.
Dr. Henking’s enthusiastic selection by the Search Committee, and her election by the Board of Trustees, resulted from an extensive and rigorous search process. The Search Committee spent eight months identifying and renewing a large pool of candidates and soliciting input from the Shimer community.
Located minutes from the Loop in Chicago, Shimer College is an independent, four-year liberal arts college that enrolls approximately 150 students. Founded in 1853 as the Mount Carroll Seminary, Shimer today provides a comprehensive, regularly-reviewed core curriculum that brings foundational books of the liberal arts to bear on the pressing problems of our time. Shimer College is committed to a primary-source, textbook-free curriculum, seminars of twelve or fewer students, and an ethos of community and service within a diverse group of students, teachers, scholars, and staff.