Henderson State University has a unique history. The only Arkansas university which has been controlled by both church and State, it is the only public one named for an individual. Of the nine Arkansas public universities, Henderson is one of only two originally established as a four-year, degree-conferring institution and is the second oldest university under state control. The university has operated for a century under six names: Arkadelphia Methodist College (1890-1904), Henderson College (1904-1911), Henderson-Brown College (1911-1929), Henderson State Teachers College (1929-1967), Henderson State College (1967-1975) and Henderson State University (1975- ).
Henderson State University had its beginnings on November 6, 1889, when Arkadelphia civic leaders and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, held a town meeting at the church to discuss establishment of a Methodist college for Arkadelphia and south Arkansas. Leaders of the movement, however, became convinced that the interest of the community could best be served by securing Hendrix College, an established Methodist institution then subject to relocation. Arkadelphia's failure to secure Hendrix College resulted in implementation of the original plan.
The institution was founded on March 24, 1890, and was incorporated as Arkadelphia Methodist College. It was chartered as a four-year, coeducational baccalaureate liberal arts college. The college opened on September 3, 1890, with 110 students and 10 faculty members. The name was changed to Henderson College in 1904 to honor Charles Christopher Henderson, a trustee and prominent local businessman. In 1911, the name was amended to Henderson-Brown College to honor Walter William Brown, who was also a trustee. From its founding in 1890 until 1925, the college also operated an academy, which provided instruction for students desiring high school courses and for those not prepared to enter the collegiate curriculum.
Henderson was a sister institution of Hendrix College. In 1929, the educational commission of the Arkansas Methodist Conferences proposed that the two colleges be merged in Little Rock. However, through the efforts of Arkadelphia citizens and religious and political leaders of south Arkansas, the institution, then known as Henderson-Brown College, was offered to the State of Arkansas. The Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation (Act 46) to "establish a standard Teachers College in Arkadelphia," and Henderson became a daughter of the state.
Today, Henderson State University is a multipurpose institution with an enrollment of approximately 3,600 students, offering both graduate and undergraduate programs of study that serve the diversified needs of higher education for Arkansas and the nation. Degree programs are offered through the Matt Locke Ellis College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, Teachers College, Henderson, and the Graduate School. The university operates the only aviation degree program in Arkansas and offers pre-professional studies. In 1951, Henderson became a graduate center for the University of Arkansas and, in 1955, instituted its own graduate program. The university now confers multiple graduate degrees. Since its founding, Henderson has occupied a position of educational leadership. Students and alumni have achieved national and international recognition, including Rhodes, Fulbright, and Rotary International Scholarships. Throughout most of its history, the university has been affectionately known as "Henderson." The motto is "The School With A Heart." The colors are red and gray, and the students and athletic teams are appropriately known as Reddies.
Presidents of the University
George Childs Jones (1890-97) (1899-1904)
Cadesman Pope (1897-1899)
John Hartwell Hinemon (1904-1911)
George Henry Crowell (1911-1915)
James Mims Workman (1915-1926)
Clifford Lee Hornaday (1926-1928)
James Warthen Workman (1928-1929)
Joseph Pitts Womack (1929-1939)
Joseph A. Day (1939-1941)
Matt Locke Ellis (1941-1945)
Dean D. McBrien (1945-1963)
M. H. Russell (1963-1969)
Martin B. Garrison (1970-1986)
Charles DeWitt Dunn (1986-2008)
Charles Welch (2008– 2011)
Bobby G. Jones (2011-2012)
Glendell Jones Jr. (2012-2019)
Elaine Kneebone Acting President (2019-2020)