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Lesbian appointed head of Chicago's Shimer College
From a news release
2012-02-22

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Chicago, IL--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 Boa Trustees. Sally Brown, Chair of the Shimer Board of Trustees, announced the appointment today 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.

"Susan Henking is a superb scholar, teacher, and leader in higher education, who is ideally suited to become the next president of Shimer College. She is articulate and knowledgeable about the Great Books, and she has the sophistication, analytical talents, and energy to be a great president. The Board of Trustees is delighted at her appointment and we look forward to a brilliant future for Shimer under her leadership," said Robert O. Keohane, Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

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."

President Noonan described Dr. Henking's appointment as "the perfect fit for Shimer. Susan will find an administration that works collaboratively, a world-class faculty, an engaged alumni, and the bright students we've always attracted. We will find a rare leader whose energy, ambition, and authenticity will make Shimer an ever greater institution."

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.

"In my work," Dr. Henking said, "I have focused on a commitment both to ensure the diversity of the landscape of higher education because I believe diversity best supports our social order and our students, and to renew and extend the skills of effective leadership in various settings. I have been reminded that leading on one campus means, in a sense, taking on a leadership role in all of higher education. The rich intellectual depth of Shimer and its commitment to persistent questioning foster this kind of inclusive excellence. I look forward to the ways we can continue to leaven the great conversation that is higher education both on the Shimer campus, in the city of Chicago, and beyond."

"Susan Henking's passion and dedication as a leader in higher education have had a lasting impact on students, faculty, administrators, and colleagues alike," said Sally Brown, Chair of the Board of Trustees. "Like Robert Hutchins, on whose Great Books curriculum Shimer's is based, Susan believes that we must continuously reassess tradition to bring it into context with contemporary challenges. And like Hutchins, Susan is invigorated by an education whose central mission is vitality: an education that animates curiosity, sparks innovation, and inspires service in a diverse global society. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have attracted a leader of Dr. Henking's caliber. She is the ideal person to lead Shimer into a new era of achievement and distinction."

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. Since February 2011, she has served as an elected member to the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty Board of Directors.

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, which included alumni, Board members, faculty, staff, and students, spent eight months identifying and reviewing 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.


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