Dr. Susan 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.
Susan 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.
At the time of her appointment in 2012, Susan 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.”
In her first year, Susan has developed a number of initiatives, including the Shimer@60 program through which senior citizens 60 years of age or older can take a course at Shimer free of charge, which made a splash when it was rolled out in the Fall of 2013. Two more new programs are coming down the pike. Beginning next January, a scholarship for community college transfer students, appropriately called The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship, will become available. And plans are underway for a summer college prep program that will help high school students build solid writing and self-expression skills.