Susan Henking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Susan Henking
Henking 1a.jpg
Susan Henking at Shimer College in 2012.
14th President of Shimer College
Assumed office
Preceded by Ed Noonan
Personal details
Alma mater University of Chicago Divinity School; Duke University

Susan E. Henking is a leader in higher education, scholar and leader in religious studies and was the 14th president and final president of Shimer College in Chicago. She was appointed to this position in July 2012 and completed her service to Shimer in 2017, having successfully led an innovative effort to situate Shimer in a new way as the Shimer Great Books School of North Central College.[1][2]

Henking was the first female president of this small Great Books college since its 19th-century founder, Frances Shimer, ceded control to the University of Chicago in 1896.[1] Henking is one of the small number of openly lesbian college presidents.[3][4]

During her years at Shimer, Henking blogged frequently on higher education and other topics on the Huffington Post[5] and also ChicagoNow.[6] In the past she was also a regular contributor to Religion Dispatches, an online magazine of religion, politics and culture.[7]

Henking has also written for Public Seminars, a web based forum for public intellectuals and is active in various professional organizations.


By recognizing that the phrase “I am a leader. I am also a woman” is both aspirational and descriptive, we women leaders remember both our success in navigating the politics of academe and our continuing need to challenge the status quo.

Susan Henking, 2008[8]

Susan Henking received her BA from Duke University in 1977 and her MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1979.[9] She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1988,[10] and began teaching at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1988.[9] Her doctoral dissertation was titled “Protestant Religious Experience and the Rise of American Sociology: A Contextual Study of Varieties of Secularization”.[9]

Henking taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges for more than 20 years, principally in the field of religious studies. She also taught in Women's Studies. In 1992 she received the Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award.[10] During her time at the Colleges, Henking served on the Board of the American Academy of Religion for nearly a decade and as founding editor of the Oxford University Press series Teaching Religious Studies also of the American Academy of Religion.[11] Under her leadership, the series published volumes on areas such as African American religions, the relevance of Freud in religious studies, religion and violence, and the Tao Te Ching.

In addition to teaching at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Henking served in various administrative roles. She was the interim Dean of Faculty from 1998 to 2001. She headed the Department of Religious Studies from 2002 to 2005 and 2008 to 2009.[9] In addition, before her departure in the summer of 2012, she served as adviser to the Board of Trustees.[12]

Henking has also written and taught in the field of LGBT studies. Often her work has been at the junction of LGBT studies and religious studies, as in Que(e)rying Religion the volume she co-edited in 1997 with Gary David Comstock. She co-chaired the program in LGBT studies at Hobart and William Smith,[13] which was the first such program in the nation to offer a major.[14] Henking was also a founder of the American Academy of Religion subgroup focused on lesbian feminism in the study of religion.

As a scholar, Henking worked on the historical and theoretical relationships of religion and religious studies to the social sciences, connections between American religion and what came to be called HIV/AIDS, mourning and loss, and gender/sexuality and religion. With Gary David Comstock, then of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Henking was the co-editor of an early (1997) anthology focused on scholarly attention to LGBT studies and religion.

Shimer College presidency[edit]

In early 2012, Henking was chosen to become the 14th president of Shimer College. Her selection was the a result of an exhaustive nationwide search led by Shimer alumnus and international relations scholar Robert Keohane. Keohane described her as "ideally suited to become the next president of Shimer College."[15] She was the first regular president of Shimer College after the acrimonious departure of Thomas Lindsay in 2010. During the intervening two years, the presidency was filled on an interim basis by Ed Noonan.

Shortly after assuming the presidency, Henking wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Although liberal arts colleges serve smaller populations than do larger public institutions, we can be a valuable resource for our communities. We have the flexibility as institutions to develop and implement new ways of improving access and fixing costs. And we have the responsibility. I call on other liberal arts colleges in the Chicago area and across the country to join Shimer College in this effort.[16]

Since then, Henking has appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, the New York Times, Inside Higher Education, University Business and more, arguing for the important of liberal education and for the value of tiny colleges.

Serving five years, Henking led the successful effort to become part of North Central College as the Shimer Great Books School of North Central College, located in Naperville. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by Shimer College on April 29, 2017 and is President Emerita.

Current Work[edit]

Henking serves on the Advisory Council of the North West College of the Liberal Arts. She is also on the Board of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. In addition to her administrative and leadership roles, Henking focuses her attention on the diversity of kinds of institution characteristic of American higher education, including micro-colleges, having initiated gatherings of tiny, mission driven colleges at the Council of Independent Colleges. She is active in the pre-eminent gathering of LGBTQ Presidents and Chancellors in Higher Education as well. Over the course her career, she has worked on matters of diversity and Inclusion, with colleagues at Campus Women Lead, and on women's leadership in higher education.


Among Henking's publications are:

  • 1992: "Protestant Religious Experience and the Rise of American Sociology," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 28(4): 325-339.
  • 1993: "Rejected, Reclaimed, Renamed: Mary Daly on Psychology and Religion," Journal of Psychology and Theology 21(3): 199-207.
  • 1996: "The Open Secret: Dilemmas of Advocacy in the (Religious Studies) Classroom." pp. 245–259 in Advocacy in the Classroom: Propaganda versus Engagement, Patricia Meyers Spacks ed. (New York: St. Martin's Press).
  • 1996: "Proselytizing and Pedagogy", Religious Studies News 11, p. 8.
  • 1997: Susan Henking and Gary David Comstock, eds. Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology (New York: Continuum)
  • 2000: "Does (the History of ) Religion and Psychological Studies Have a Subject?" in Mapping Religion and Psychological Studies, Diane Jonte-Pace and William Parsons eds. (New York: Routledge).
  • 2000: "Who is the Public Intellectual? Identity, Marginality, and the Religious Studies Scholar." ARC: Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University 28 (2000): 159-171.
  • 2004: "Religion, Religious Studies and Higher Education: Into the 21st Century," Religious Studies Review 30(2,3): 129-136.
  • 2006: "Difficult Knowledges: Gender, Sexuality, Religion," Spotlight on Teaching, October 2006.
  • 2008: Susan Henking, Diane Jonte Pace, William Parsons, eds. Mourning Religion (University of Virginia Press).
  • 2008:“More than a Quarter Century: HIV/AIDS and Religion,” Religious Studies Review 34(3) pp. 129ff.
  • 2014. “Reflections from Prestigious Leaders LGBTQ in Higher Education,” Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture 5(1): pp. 60ff.


  1. ^ a b "Dr. Susan Henking Appointed 14th President of Shimer College: First Woman named President since Founder Frances Wood Shimer". Archived from the original on 2012-12-12. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  2. ^ "College News: Malcolm X gets a new campus, Shimer gets a president". Chicago Reader. 2012-02-21. 
  3. ^ "Lesbian appointed head of Chicago's Shimer College". Windy City Times. 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  4. ^ Susan Henking (2013-05-07). "LGBTQ Chicago Presidents". ChicagoNow. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  5. ^ "Susan Henking". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  6. ^ "About Shimer Prez". ChicagoNow. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  7. ^ "Contributors: Susan Henking". Religion Dispatches. Archived from the original on 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  8. ^ Susan Henking (2008). "Campus Women Lead". On Campus with Women. 37 (1). Archived from the original on 2008-07-14. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Curriculum Vitae of Susan E. Henking" (PDF). 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  10. ^ a b Hobart and William Smith Colleges. "Religious Studies: Susan Henking". Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  11. ^ Hobart and William Smith Colleges. "Faculty Information". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  12. ^ "Susan Henking". Inside Higher Ed. 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  13. ^ "Henking Named Shimer President". 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  14. ^ Pat Flynn (2011-10-04). "SDSU second in nation to offer LGBT major". Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  15. ^ "Comments from Others". Archived from the original on 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  16. ^ Susan Henking. "Colleges Can Improve Access, Fix Costs". 

External links[edit]