Alumni Spotlight

Arnold Henderson, Jr. ’66: EHS Takes Pride in the Proud Father of Our Alma Mater Singer

The recent “Daring to Dream” program featured a moving rendition of the English High Alma Mater by award-winning Jazz and Latin vocalist Lauren Henderson. Lauren is the daughter of Arnold Henderson Jr., an EHS graduate, Class of ’66. We reached out to Arnold Henderson to talk about his reaction to Lauren’s performance and his own very distinguished career.

Arnold Henderson ’66 describes himself as “a real Boston guy.” He grew up across the street from EHS classmate Jerry Burrell ’66, and married Jeannette Gerald, a Latin Girls School graduate and sister of EHS grad Arthur Gerald ’65. After graduation he joined several other 1966 classmates at UMass Boston, earning a BA in English in 1970.

Henderson applied for a teaching position at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. His 11 years at Rindge and Latin, where students included NBA star Patrick Ewing and New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio, were the beginning of a long and meaningful career in education.

I think that anything that can be done to support English High is great and I was very pleased to hear that Lauren was going to be involved in the program.

Wanting to explore options beyond the classroom, Henderson joined Salem State University where he ran programs for first generation college students from urban areas for two years. From there he went to Brandeis University as a Class Dean and was named Person of the Year in 1986.

In 1986 Henderson went to MIT as an assistant dean for counseling, becoming Dean of Counseling and Support Services in 1996. He was also a member of the President’s Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee and chaired its Student Services Subcommittee. Henderson co-Chaired the MIT Mental Health Task Force and, from 1996 to 2010, was a member of the Committee on Academic Performance.

In 2000, Henderson was named MIT’s winner of the YMCA Black Achiever Award.

“Dean Henderson has contributed significantly to the furtherance of the mission of MIT,” Leo Osgood Jr. [2008 MLK Award winner] said in his nomination of Dean Henderson for the award. “He has provided support for all students and exhibited an unwavering commitment to students’ concerns and issues. He has worked tirelessly to improve and strengthen the ability of CSS to deliver effective services to the student population.”

In 2009 Henderson was honored by MIT for fostering diversity and inclusion with an MIT Excellence Award that recognized Henderson’s contributions with these words:

“ Before there was an Americans with Disabilities Act, there was someone at MIT who took responsibility for providing support and access to students with disabilities. He is now associate dean and co-director in Student Support Services, a welcoming, accessible place for MIT students who seek help with academic, administrative, or personal issues. During his 22 years at the Institute, he has been involved in numerous offices or committees that serve the disadvantaged promote fairness and inclusion, or remove barriers, whether social, economic, cultural, or physical. As one nominator said, ‘He is the conscience of MIT. His advocacy begins with friendship – the kind that can build self-confidence in a student who is isolated or adrift. One alumnus wrote that our awardee saw his need, reached out and drew him into a conversation — that turned into a community. Without that action, this student and many others would not be among our graduates today. Because of our awardee’s commitment, skill and nuanced understanding of the needs of students and the guidelines of administration, he is respected throughout the Institute.
With thanks, we recognize Arnold Henderson.”

In 2012, Henderson received the 38th Annual MKL Leadership Award. He has alsobeen a member of the President’s Planning Committee for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration for many years.

Since his retirement from MIT in 2014, Henderson continues to be involved with the school, working with a group of former administrators who are gathering information about the history of African American presence at MIT. The MIT Black History Project is an ongoing collaborative research effort sponsored by the MIT Office of the Provost working to archive 150+ years of the black experience at MIT.