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Championing Thought

Honors College Founder Ed Henderson Retires
Championing Thought

Photo by Stewart Humble

When he’s not hanging around Highland Coffees with his “rolling office,” you might find Professor Ed Henderson fishing for speckled trout, listening to old-time country music, or relaxing with his family.  But most likely, you’ll find him reading or writing philosophy.

“I read philosophy by compulsion; I can’t not read it,” he said. “Because the questions — I can’t let them go. I realize that I’m not going to figure everything out, which is what philosophers think they’re going to do when they begin … At some point along the way, you realize it’s not going to happen. But then you still enjoy thinking about these things.”

Henderson, who studies the philosophy of religion, received his Ph.D. from Tulane and then taught at a small college in Missouri for a few years before heading to LSU.

The Alabama native and former Honors College Associate Dean was one of the founders of the Honors Division in the fall of 1967, a program offering small sections of Great Books and Western Civilization courses for academically talented students through the College of Arts and Sciences.

Over the course of the years, Henderson would remain closely involved with the program, and the seed that he helped to plant in the sixties would eventually become the LSU Honors College.   

“Naturally, faculty enjoy teaching bright students … [and] we had an interest in trying to have at least some of our teaching load devoted to students who were capable and interested in small classes that allowed for interaction and discussion,” he said.

Alongside the then Philosophy Chair Charles Bigger and English Professors Emeritus Jack Gilbert and Herbert Rothschild in the English department, Henderson helped to grow the program considerably by expanding it to include other colleges in the early ‘80s. 

“Billy Seay became the director then; he played poker with Chancellor J.H. Wharton, and that’s how he persuaded him to give a little more support [to the Honors program],” Henderson said, laughing.

Henderson, who has been teaching an HNRS course on C.S. Lewis and the Oxford Christians for the past ten years, said that his experience teaching in the Honors College has allowed him to grow as a thinker and has been one of the highlights of his teaching career.

“It’s not as though you learn everything while you’re in school and then you teach it. It’s not that way at all,” he said. “You keep learning.  By teaching, you get to broaden yourself, expand yourself, keep learning … You learn from students — especially in areas like philosophy and the interdisciplinary courses in Honors — because you discuss these works together.”

After retirement, Henderson plans to spend his days reading and writing philosophy to stave off “intellectual myopia” and spending time with his wife and family, whom he refers to as “the source of whatever stability and wisdom I have.”

“We will miss Ed’s presence in the Honors College and his ability to teach his students about the important values of integrity, compassion, and intellectual curiosity,” said Honors College Dean Nancy L. Clark. “And I’ll also miss a great friend who set a high standard of leadership.”


Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College

For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831



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