Henry ‘retirement’ only means minor change

Patrick Henry retired this spring as a Lincoln University professor — but it may be more of a “retirement” in name only.

“This summer I’ll be teaching the same graduate course that I’ve taught since coming back to the classroom after being dean,” Henry said last week. “As long as the university will still see fit to hire me, to use the experience that I have to the benefit of our students and the program, then I’ll be there” as a part-time, adjunct professor.

Henry’s been at LU for 30 years, and he’s been a teacher since 1969 — except for a two-year drafted detour in the Marine Corps.

Henry grew up in Marceline and, while in high school, he received a congressional appointment to the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs.

But a football injury in 1964, the fall of his senior year, and the surgery to repair it meant he couldn’t meet the academy’s physical requirements.

So, he attended the University of Missouri, graduated in 1969 and took a teaching job at Truman High School in Independence.

“I was the first in my family to graduate from college,” Henry said. “I got my draft notice about two weeks into the school year.

“Nine months later, I was assigned to a one-year tour in Vietnam.”

His unit’s job was to provide defense at the “outer fire-support bases” as they were winding down operations and being turned over to the Vietnamese Army, so he saw a lot of the country “from DaNang to the DMZ (demilitarized zone).”

When he left the Marines in 1971, he decided to work on his master’s degree — so Henry returned to Columbia for school and, also, taught in Ashland for two years.

Then he went to work in North Kansas City and, while teaching in high school there, “I decided I wanted to be in higher education so, in 1976, I moved back to Columbia.”

Henry earned his doctorate in 1982, and taught a year as a “visiting” professor at MU.

“I loved teaching in junior high and high school,” he said, “(but) when I got my master’s degree, I really connected with that college experience.”

In 1983, Lincoln University’s English department head, Linda Wyman, asked Henry if he’d teach classes at the Renz Correctional Center.

A year later, with offers from Boise State and the University of Northern Iowa, Henry decided to stay at LU, teaching in the Education department.

During his LU career, Henry served 2 1/2-years as dean of LU’s College of Education, appointed by then President David Henson — and another six years as dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Journalism.

One of the issues facing all educators, he acknowledged, is a regular philosophical change about every 10 years.

“And then I think that’s increased — almost doubled — to where we’re doing it about every five years,” Henry said. “When I came to Lincoln in 1983, the ‘Nation At Risk’ report had just come out.

“And ever since then, the reform movements and the changes to teacher ed — and to K-12 as well — the pendulum swinging has really picked up speed.”

Several years ago, he shifted back to the classroom in another LU administrative reorganization.

“They named me the director of Academic Partnerships,” Henry said, allowing him to spend is last few years concentrating on helping improve LU’s teacher education programs’ efforts to get students ready to teach in urban settings.

In 1997 — as his wife, Melinda, was expecting the couple’s their son, Christian — Henry took a sabbatical from Lincoln and taught in the Baltimore, Md., school system.

“I wanted to see if I could survive and be successful,” he explained. “I learned there were things I needed to change in terms of teacher preparation, and the reality of what was going on in our urban schools.”

His retirement comes, as much as anything, because of his age — “66 was the magic age for full Social Security benefits, and I wanted that option to be able to do some things that I just didn’t have the time to do otherwise,” he explained.

Henry said retirement will give him more time to spend on a “hobby” that’s developed over the last decade — a family band.

“When Christian was 5, and (stepson) John Michael was 11, we started playing publicly,” Henry said. “It’s just been an incredible ride ever since.”

More recently, after John Michael — now a senior at Central Methodist University — got too busy to play with the band, Henry said, “We added a different bass player from outside the family (and) a second guitar player.”

Henry said his family’s choice of his name had nothing to do with that American patriot — although there is evidence his family is distantly related to “founding father” Patrick Henry.

“I did play Nathan Hale in a school play,” he said.

Henry has “no regrets” about the career path he’s followed.

“I’ve been blessed to have a great relationship with my students, helping them be successful and, hopefully, inspiring them,” he said.

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