Kathleen Henderson

Written By Brianna Gavin '21

Kathleen Henderson is a remarkable woman because of one simple fact: she breaks down barriers and empowers others to do the same. Henderson positively impacts students through her constant encouragement and support. She teaches students  to take charge of their future. Her presence provides students with a sense of warmth, love, and safety. She gives students the opportunity to know their worth, live by that worth, and empower others to find their worth.

Henderson aspired to be an attorney at the young age of 17 As a first generation college student, she encountered many challenges adjusting to college life and maintaining her priorities. Through hard work and many influential mentors, Henderson graduated from UD and began working in many different capacities,  including the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). When she was appointed the director of the office in 1996, she was unsure of her qualifications for the position. Through this struggle of finding herself, mentors around the University of Dayton encouraged her to believe in herself. After her work in OMA, she became an executive assistant to the provost. Currently, she serves as the Director of Student Engagement and Associate Director of the Office of Student Success.

Henderson thrives in helping young students find their passions and  discover their true identities. She is described as someone who, if a student is drowning in academic and personal struggles, will not throw a lifeline, but will instead sit on the shore and remind the student they know how to swim. In her own words, she “holds students until they’re ready to soar.”

Throughout her 36 years working with the University of Dayton, Henderson has been strength in the face of unbelievable struggle by advocating for underrepresented students. She aided in the establishment of the Women’s Center at UD and envisioned “a place where young women can be reminded of their worth and find a sense of purpose so that there’s equity in the world.”

Henderson embodies what it means to be, in the words of Maya Angelou, “a phenomenal woman.” Henderson is a phenomenal woman through her encouraging words to the struggling student, her hugs to the lonely young person, and her advocacy and fight for those who don’t fit in a box. Henderson has been recognized on a PBS special “African American Lives 2”, along with other individuals such as Morgan Freeman and Maya Angelou, Henderson gives students the gift of a genuine, humble, and  remarkable role model.

Henderson has changed the lives, hearts, and minds of thousands of students. She embodies what it means to be an independent woman and  inspires young women to believe in and fight for themselves. Henderson has loved, pushed, encouraged, and fought for many students, and she has provided a home for underrepresented students at UD so they can demonstrate that through “speaking success into existence”, anything is possible.