Henking Named Shimer President – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Henking Named Shimer President

Professor of Religious Studies Susan Henking has been named the president of Shimer College, the ‘Great Books’ college of Chicago. Founded in 1853, Shimer is a small, independent four-year liberal arts college in Chicago, Ill. Henking, who has served on the HWS faculty since 1988, will officially take the reins on July 1, 2012.

“Susan’s dedication and service to the Colleges over the past two decades have left an indelible mark on the institution,” says Mark D. Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “She leaves behind the legacy of the first Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual major in the country, which she helped to create, as well as significant advancements in the teaching of religious studies and women’s studies.”

Prior to HWS, Henking taught at Colgate University, Western Illinois University, and the University of Chicago. She is currently an adviser to the HWS Board of Trustees Futures Thinking and Strategic Planning Initiative, within the Office of the President. During her tenure at HWS, she has twice chaired the religious studies department, has co-chaired the Colleges’ interdisciplinary Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Studies program, and played a leadership role in the success of the HWS Women’s Studies program. From 1998 – 2001, Henking was acting provost and interim dean of faculty, leading planning efforts focused on technology and compensation for faculty and staff, and facilitating collaboration between academic and student affairs. She has served in many faculty governance roles including as presiding officer of the faculty and as a member of the steering committee for Middle States Accreditation. During the 2010 academic year, Henking was an American Council on Education Fellow at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and is currently the Colleges’ chapter president of the American Association of University Professors.

A past recipient of the Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award at HWS, she is a widely respected professor of courses in religious studies, women’s studies and general education. Henking’s work has long focused on the historical relationship between religion and the social sciences, and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago is in religion and psychological studies. She has also co-chaired the Colleges’ interdisciplinary LGBT Studies program for many years.

Henking has published an extensive amount of scholarly works on religion, psychology, the history of sociology, gender, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, diversity, and leadership.  She is also the co-editor of two books: “Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology” (New York: Continuum, 1997) and “Mourning Religion” (University of Virginia Press, 2008). As founding series editor of the Oxford University Press AAR Teaching Religious Studies Series, she helped to ensure that the teacher/scholar model was and is recognized by the American Academy of Religion. She has also worked with new faculty at universities in the U.S. and in Canada on how to teach religious studies (under a grant from the Lilly Endowment and the American Academy of Religion), and writes on this topic.

She has co-coordinated and directed national programs for Higher Education Resource Services (HERS), an educational non-profit providing leadership and management development for women in higher education administration. Her work with HERS and with other national organizations includes collaboration with senior leaders from across higher education.

Henking’s current and past professional community activities include serving as a member of the Board of Directors for the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty, the advisory board of the Reader’s Guide to Lesbian and Gay Studies, the board for LGBT Alumnae and Alumni of the University of Chicago, and in numerous committee and leadership roles with the American Academy of Religion. 

Henking received her M. A. and Ph.D. in religion and psychological studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and also holds a B.A., magna cum laude with distinction from the Departments of Religion and Sociology of Duke University. She lives with her partner, Betty M. Bayer, professor and chair of women’s studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and an internationally recognized feminist historian and theorist of psychology.