By Omar Sofradzija
One may say James B. “Jim” Henry left his legacy across Michigan State University’s campus in the form of landmark buildings, expanded programs, and other resources built up during his stint as dean of the Eli Broad College of Business. But others would argue his legacy isn’t just in those assets, but in the people empowered as a result.
“As much as he was a numbers guy, he never lost sight of the greater purpose behind those numbers. He never lost sight of the fact that those numbers mean something; that there were people behind them,” Alison Barber, who served as associate dean for undergraduate programs under Henry, said during a memorial service for Henry on Thursday, May 31, at the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development in Lansing.
“As an administrator that’s the one thing I tried hardest to always remember: it’s so easy to chase those goals that are measurable, but you should never forget that those numbers represent something,” Barber said. And it was that something that represented one’s purpose, and “not the numbers in and of themselves.”
Henry, who passed away Dec. 28, 2017, at the age of 79, led Broad College during a period of significant growth in the mid-to-late 1990s.
“Perhaps his strongest suit was his ability to bring many different stakeholders close to the Broad College in ways that were special. Whether it was an alum, whether it was a corporate partner, whether it was a new relationship, he was able to build a strong bond between these people and organizations and the Broad College,” current Dean Sanjay Gupta said in a statement.
“This closeness in turn enabled them to make a commitment to the college – whether in the form of their time, talent, or treasure,” Gupta said. “These commitments are what helped the college grow and succeed, and the positive effects of those commitments continue to this day.”
By the end of 2000, Henry had traveled more than 350,000 miles and raised more than $80 million to support the growth of Broad College.
“You didn’t tell Jim, ‘No.’ He was going to do it,” Geoff Booth, a professor emeritus in finance at the Broad College and a college classmate, professional associate, and close friend of Henry’s for more than 50 years, said at the memorial. “He was a superb dean who set high goals for himself and all of those that surrounded him.”
Henry’s tenure also saw the creation of a Weekend MBA Program (now part of the Executive MBA Program); a totally restructured Full-Time MBA curriculum; increased GMAT scores of incoming MBA students; establishment of an evening undergraduate degree program; and new master’s degree programs in engineering management, accounting, hospitality business, and marketing technology.
Henry had a special knack for recruiting talent and resources to Broad College. “He made it so the best could come wherever he was,” Booth said.
After his term as dean, Henry stayed with the Broad College for 10 more years, serving as a professor.
“He started to mentor students. He worked with MBA students, closely. And he brought the experiences from the business world,” where Henry was on the board of directors for Jackson National Asset Management, “and shared it with the MBA students.” Booth said.
“He did it, and he did it again and again and again,” Booth said.
Henry also worked to help the greater Lansing community. He was a committed supporter of the “Keep GM! Lansing Works!” movement that successfully convinced General Motors to keep in place one of mid-Michigan’s economic pillars. He lent Broad College faculty to help shape strategy and oversee efforts to retain GM here.
Father Mark Inglot of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in East Lansing, where Henry and his family were parishioners, said “there is a saying that the purpose of life is to live with purpose, and Jim lived with a purpose” as a person, professional, and Spartan, to help those around him.
“Jim gave me confidence early in my career … I’ve never forgotten his support and encouragement, and I’m grateful for the impact that he had on me as a professional and as a person,” said Richard Bundy III, who was a Broad College fundraiser under Henry and now is the vice president for development and alumni relations at Penn State University.
“Yes, it is true Jim Henry was my mentor,” Bundy said. “But he was also a role model, and he is a friend.”
Henry is survived by his wife of 44 years, Elizabeth B. Henry, and his son James M. Henry II. His family asks those wishing to honor his memory to consider memorial donations to the American Diabetes Association or a donation to the Henry Center.