Henderson had the ability to inspire writers

Although we haven't made it to the halfway point of this year, 2009 has already been a one of loss and sadness when it comes to the world of journalism.

We have already lost a personal hero of mine, the playwright Horton Foote and also the legendary sportswriter Bud Shrake, both Texans.

Last Thursday, the journalism world lost one of its beloved behind the scenes influences.

Jeff Henderson was a journalism professor for 30 years at Southwest Texas State and more importantly, he was the student publications director which meant he oversaw the student newspaper (The University Star) and any magazines published on the side.

Austin American-Statesman managing editor Debbie Hiott summed up Jeff's philosophy perfectly.

"I don't know just how many students he prodded, pushed and persuaded into the newspaper business, but I am sure his legacy of Texas journalism is considerable."

I was one of those prod-ees.

When the basketball career fizzled out at St. Edward's University (the Celtics never called for some reason) I gravitated towards San Marcos, which is where I wanted to go in the first place.

Henderson Henderson I chose Southwest Texas for its academic standing and learning opportunities... hold it—there were eight girls to every one guy on campus. Enough said.

I was a RTV (radio and television) major and had planned to continue in that direction— until I met Jeff Henderson in line at registration.

He struck up a random conversation with me while in line and when he found out I had done some writing in high school—that was it—he did everything but physically pick me up and dump me in the journalism line.

Because of enthusiasm for the written word, I changed my major on the spot.

Putting it to bed

I eventually became the editor of the University Star and spent most of my spare time trying to paste together two newspapers a week while taking a full load of classes, floating the river, hanging out at Cheatham Street Warehouse and dining at Herbert's Taco Hut. My plate was full, so to speak.

The staff made $25 a week and we once figured out compared to the hours we were working it came out to about 4 cents an hour. But we loved every minute of it and Jeff was right there with us most of the time, cutting and pasting stories or writing headlines on "the headline machine."

I always enjoyed the actual working on the newspaper more than sitting in the classroom and Jeff took quick notice of this.

He used to tell me, "Bill, when it comes to the newspaper, the workshops and the labs, you're the best I've got. But in the classroom, not so much."

American Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls taught journalism at Southwest Texas with Henderson.

"Tremendous guy. Very upbeat and positive. He will be missed."

He dressed casually and had long hair so that made him one of us.

I look at the sports pages we are putting out in today's paper and know he would be horrified at all the white space.

I am sure that there are thousands of SWT journalism students who have stories like mine. It was difficult to pass through the department without being touched by Jeff Henderson.

The things he taught me almost 30 years ago I still use to this day and more important than that, he taught me how to have fun with what he taught me.

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2009-06-18 digital edition

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