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President's Blog: From the Heart

"The Heart Work"

By Eric F. Spina

This summer Kathleen Henderson ’86 ’93 and Beverly Jenkins ’78 will each surpass an amazing 40 years in various administrative roles at the University of Dayton, where they have largely served students, doing what Kathleen calls “the heart work.”

I would also call it God’s work — and they’ve come full circle with offices once again in Albert Emanuel Hall where they started their UD careers. In all, they can claim 18 (!) different titles between them over their combined 80 years at UD.

After earning an education degree, Bev joined UD as assistant to the director of minority recruitment. It took Kathleen longer to earn her business degree, but she uses her story of failure, perseverance, and, ultimately, success to inspire today’s students to reach out for the support they need to realize their dreams.

“To manage the financial strain of attending UD, I started working a full-time night job. Of course, my grades fell off, which only added to my feeling that I didn't belong, that I wasn't smart enough, the business school wasn't the place for women — especially a Black woman. Today we would say that I had full-blown ‘imposter syndrome,’” she says.

“Then I got angry and I got smart. I was angry at myself for succumbing to the fear and shame of failure. I got smart and applied for any job that would allow me to return to UD and complete what I started — this time using all of the resources at my disposal,” recalls Kathleen, now director of college access, transition, and success.

Her first job as faculty secretary in the School of Law provided tuition assistance. “Each position since has affirmed my intellect, drive, and even chutzpah as law dean Fred Davis would so often quip — especially when he learned that I originally wanted to become a lawyer,” she says.

As a first-generation college student, Kathleen readily admits that she didn’t know where to turn for help in her quest to finish her degree. “My experience fuels what and why I do what I do.”

Today, Kathleen and Bev help our high-potential Flyer Promise Scholars find the resources they need to succeed and cross the finish line to graduation. A remarkable 93 percent of students in the first two cohorts graduated, far exceeding the national average for private universities as well as our own. These veteran administrators tell these newly minted graduates — all talented, underserved students from partner schools — to “pay it forward,” just as they have done.

This kind of administrative support didn’t exist in the organizational chart when Bev and Kathleen earned their undergraduate diplomas and, later, master’s degrees in education fields at Wright State University and UD, respectively.

“We help students see there’s more than one way to get to where they want to go. When you’re young, you don’t always see the threads,” says Kathleen, whose varied roles at UD included a stint as director of Diverse Student Populations.

Bev, director of student enrichment and academic outcomes, says her day-to-day interactions with students keep her fulfilled. “I don’t touch every student, but I’ve been impactful in helping students find themselves, be their best, be their all.”

While neither is Catholic, both are driven by their faith and embrace the Marianist philosophy of recognizing the gifts of all people and helping students find their calling.

“Compassion 5.0. That describes Kathleen and me. It’s part of my caring nature to support this population of students,” notes Bev.

“I’m so grateful to be of service. It’s a blessing,” adds Kathleen.

I have gotten to know Bev and Kathleen well in my six years at UD such that I know it is *UD’s* blessing to have the two of them as University leaders, here for 80 years and counting.

Their selfless dedication to others — especially those who have been historically marginalized — is inspiring and absolutely makes a difference in the professional and personal lives of our students. Whether dishing out tough love when merited, extending care and sympathy through difficult circumstances, or celebrating meaningful successes, Bev and Kathleen support the holistic development of students and help them achieve their promise and their ambitions.

Please join me in a silent prayer for these two long-serving champions who are devoted to caring for students with compassion, grace and, yes, 80 years of experience. God bless and keep Beverly Jenkins and Kathleen Henderson — may they continue to serve at UD for another 80 combined years!

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