Susan Henking is a passionate advocate for liberal education and for women’s leadership. She is also a teacher/scholar in the academic study of religion as well as in interdisciplinary fields such as women’s studies and LGBTQ studies. Her decades long career in higher education led to her current role as Interim President of Salem Academy and College in Winston Salem, NC.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Susan graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and sociology as a first-generation college goer. Following that, she pursued degrees in religion and psychological studies from the University of Chicago.
A believer in the notion of leaders who learn, Susan spent 25 years teaching and learning as a Professor of Religious Studies and academic administrator at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York. While there, she was co-founder of LGBTQ studies, a leader in faculty governance and President of the AAUP, active in women’s studies and in other interdisciplinary venues, and both Interim Provost and Advisor to the Board of Trustees. A recipient of the Colleges’ Teaching Award, Susan also received an AACU award for an innovative co-taught course on AIDS/HIV. Susan served on the Board of the American Academy of Religion for a decade, and as founding editor of their Oxford University Press series: Teaching Religious Studies. She is co-editor with Gary David Comstock of Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology (1997) and with Diane Jonte-Pace and William Parsons, of Mourning Religion (2008). She is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Susan served as the fourteenth and final President of Shimer College in Chicago. A college known for its intellectual rigor, innovative administrative structures, as well as its pedagogy focused on discussion and on a great books approach, under Susan’s leadership Shimer College became the Shimer Great Books School of North Central College in Naperville, IL. As President of Shimer, Susan initiated and convened gatherings of micro-colleges under the aegis of the Council of Independent Colleges and wrote extensively in public and higher education settings. Among her accomplishments at Shimer were a complete redesign of the website and marketing strategies, strengthened fundraising and fiscal management, enhanced visibility for Shimer regionally and nationally, and development of extensive strategic alliances and partnerships both locally and across the nation. Susan served as the Chair of the Dinner Committee of the Harold Washington Literary Award (Near South Planning Board) and was the first college president (and CEO) to appear in the “Bosses” section of the New York Times. Susan received the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from North Central College in honor of her work at Shimer and is President Emerita of Shimer College.
Susan’s approach to leadership has been shaped by her experience as an American Council of Education Fellow, as a participant and leader in HERS (Higher Education Resource Services, the pre-eminent leadership development organization in the United States focused on developing women’s leadership in higher education), in the Harvard program for New Presidents, in the national organization for LGBTQ Chancellors and Presidents, and alongside a diverse group of leaders called CampusWomen Lead.
Susan and her partner, Betty Bayer, Professor of Women’s Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, live in the Finger Lakes region of New York. She enjoys cooking and has a sometimes-active blog called CookingwithIdeas.
Susan joined the Salem community as Interim Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Dean of the College in January of 2019.