Hendriks paves way for student research

In the late 1940s postwar Americans began their infatuation with modern convenience. Meanwhile, in King Chapel, a young geology professor named Herb Hendriks ’40 spoke out against this disposable society while advocating for a course in environmental science.

In the late ’60s the environmental movement emerged and Hendriks’ course finally took root. Then in 1975 he founded Cornell’s environmental studies program, the first in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and one of the first in the nation.

Hendriks’ support for the program continued even after his retirement in 1983. He founded the Herb and Luretta Hendriks Student Research Fund to which he has given more than $52,000 over the years. The fund supports student/faculty summer research projects, as well as offsetting costs for students who present their work at the Cornell Student Symposium or professional conferences.

“I’m a firm believer in the value of student research,” said Hendriks. “When I retired, many of the funding resources that we had available in the early ’60s and ’70s, such as the National Science Foundation, were drying up. I wanted a backup to help students pay for field research.”

Hendriks’ leadership inspired the class of 1958 to make its own gift to the environmental studies program in his honor at its 50th reunion this year. Organized by Gib Drendel ’58 and John Dean ’58, the gift stood at $550,000 as of the end of march. The class gave an additional $80,311 to the Hendriks Student Research Fund.

Hendriks is pleased that future students will enjoy the types of off-campus learning that he first experienced as a Cornell student, as well as an environment that encourages the constant questioning and testing of ideas.

“At my high school, in both physics and chemistry, we had demonstrations; students did not get in and participate in the actual scientific process,” Hendriks said. “When I came to Cornell, and Neil Miner started involving us in various ways in the learning process, I was sold … it was exciting.”