In memory of Bob Henderson

University Times (Republished with permission)

Copyright (c) 1996, University of Pittsburgh

Robert T. Henderson, the director of our Language Acquisition Institute and the president of the International Association for Learning Laboratories, was shamefully murdered sometime between July 12 and July 16 in Hawaii. The telephone in our house did not stop ringing for days as his friends called to share their feelings of incredible shock and emptiness, for the news of his death was as unexpected, intimate and personal as a sucker punch in the gut. Upon hearing of it, one had to sit down suddenly and breathe deeply until the world came back into focus.

He was my friend -- and he had many friends. We had coffee on the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning almost every week. The last message I had from him was from Honolulu on July 8, when I received an exuberant and happy e-mail, characteristically phrased affirmatively: The "symposium is off to a good start," his demonstration was "well-received," "lots of sun 'n' fun over the weekend." Bob was an affirmative guy with specific enthusiasms. He loved the Pirates through thick years and thin; he steeped himself in his Scottish heritage -- he mastered bagpipes and proudly wore a kilt as he played them in parades. He learned to fly an airplane. He knew virtually all there was to know about the use of computers in language education.

He was unquestionably student-oriented -- their friend and advocate. As director of the Language Acquisition Institute, he was endlessly patient in arranging for classes in the uncommonly taught languages, finding native-speakers to teach them, solving scheduling problems, and sometimes bending witless regulations to help them study what they wanted.

Warm, accessible, patient and competent, he was unique, a pleasure to be with, an ornament to the University of Pittsburgh. And every time I sit down and have coffee across from his Cathedral office, I shall raise my cup to his memory.

--Edward M. Anthony (Edward Anthony is a professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and former director of the Language Acquisition Institute.)

Robert Henderson Language Media Center, University of Pittsburgh
Last revised: July 27, 2001