Henderson Learning Resources Center has been an integral part of campus for the last 39 years. Completed in 1971 as part of Washburn’s re-construction effort in the wake of the 1966 tornado, the building was dedicated on May 16, 1971 as part of the spring commencement week activities.
The Learning Resources Center, as it was then named, was designed by the Ekdhl, Davis and Depew, architectural firm. It was built by Casson Construction Company for $2.5 million and featured ample classroom space along with facilities for television production.
The President of Washburn University at the time was John Henderson. While speaking at the dedication Henderson encouraged the application of computers at Washburn, a concept that was somewhat ahead of the times.
“At a time when 250 hours of instruction can be placed in a kit the size of a suitcase we must not continue to act as though the electronic revolution has not occurred,” he said at the dedication.
John Wayne Henderson was born in Windber, Pa., in 1922. He spent a few years working in coal mines before joining the U.S. Marine Air Corps and serving in World War II. When the war ended in 1945 Henderson began attending classes at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., where he would eventually obtain a bachelor’s degree. He attended graduate school at Michigan State where he earned his doctorate in 1958.
After finishing at Michigan State, Henderson spent seven years holding positions at other colleges before becoming Washburn’s president in 1965. He claimed that the Washburn community would find that he wouldn’t be much of a “bricks and mortar president” because he intended on academics being the main focus of his tenure. Mother nature apparently disagreed. June 8, 1966, Washburn’s campus was struck with a devastating tornado that left a lasting mark on the university.
After the tornado damaged or destroyed a large portion of campus, Henderson proved invaluable while guiding Washburn through one of the most difficult times in its history. He worked quickly with Topeka’s mayor to bring in 40 trailers to be used as temporary class space. His biggest impact was felt while leading a fundraising drive that brought in more than $50 million in contributions. A portion of those funds were used to build the building that now includes his namesake.
In recognition of President Henderson’s strong guidance, the Washburn board of Regents voted to rededicate the Learning Resources Center as Henderson Learning Resources Center in 1977. This was unique because he continued to serve as president until his retirement in 1981 and usually an honor of this magnitude is bestowed after the honoree either moves on or retires. Sadly Henderson passed away in 1999 but Henderson Learning Resources Center stands not only in recognition of his contributions to Washburn but also as a direct result of them.