Dr. Johnny Henderson Honored as Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year

May 27, 2016

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WACO, Texas (May 27, 2016) – Johnny L. Henderson, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Mathematics in Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences, was honored as the 2016 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year during the University’s Academic Convocation on April 15.

The Cornelia Marschall Smith Award is presented to a faculty member who makes a superlative contribution to the learning environment at Baylor, including teaching which is judged to be of the highest order of intellectual acumen and pedagogical effectiveness, research which is recognized as outstanding by the national and/or international as well as local community of scholars, and service which is regarded as exemplary in building the character of intellectual community at Baylor.

As this year’s recipient, Henderson received a commemorative plaque and a cash award of $20,000. During the upcoming academic year, he will present a public lecture on an academic topic of his choosing.

Henderson joined the Baylor faculty in 2002 as a renowned mathematician who conducts research in the areas of boundary value problems for ordinary differential equations, finite difference equations and dynamic equations on time scales. A prolific scholar, he has close to 500 publications in mathematical journals, putting him in the top 1 percent of scholarly productivity for all mathematicians in the world. His work has been cited nearly 3,700 times, “an extraordinarily high number,” said Lance Littlejohn, Ph.D., professor and chair of the mathematics department at Baylor.

In 2012, Henderson was among the inaugural class of international mathematicians named Fellows of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) in recognition of his international excellence in mathematical sciences and service. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas and his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska.

“Johnny is adored by his students. As good as he is at research, and as impossible as this may sound, he just might be a better teacher,” Littlejohn said. “Students are his life blood. And Johnny does not say goodbye to his students at the end of a semester. In many cases, the end of the semester marks the beginning of a long lasting relationship with his students; indeed, hundreds of Johnny’s students have stayed in touch with him long after they graduated from college.”

The award was presented to Henderson by James Bennighof, Ph.D., vice provost for academic affairs and policy, who read from nominations from faculty, students, staff and alumni that centered on Henderson’s teaching, research and service.

“Dr. Henderson has simply an unimpeachable record of research achievements,” Bennighof said. ”Just as remarkable as this gentleman’s research accomplishments are the observations that have been made about his teaching. Quite a few students and former students wrote in support of his candidacy, and his teaching is described in very consistent ways in letter after letter. I’d sum this up by saying that students found him to be very personally supportive of them – but that he was not just a nice guy. This support was described in the context of high standards, the expression of faith in students to meet these standards and exceptionally effective teaching practices to draw successful performances out of the students.”

Bennighof added that Henderson serves as a dynamic model in his department as it strives to meet its Pro Futuris goals, and he maintains a very active role in his church.

The award is named for Cornelia Marschall Smith, Ph.D., a 1918 Baylor biology graduate, who earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1925 and her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1928. She was a professor of biology at Baylor from 1940 to 1967, chair of the biology department from 1943 to 1967 and director of Strecker Museum from 1943 to 1967. She retired in 1967, but maintained an office in Armstrong Browning Library to assist charitable causes. In 1980, Baylor honored Smith with an endowed chair known as the Cornelia Marschall Smith Professorship in Biology. She was celebrated among her colleagues, students and alumni for fine teaching, generous mentoring and her many interdisciplinary interests. She was a lively and continuing contributor to the Baylor intellectual community until her death on Aug. 27, 1997, at the age of 101.

Past recipients of the award are D. Thomas Hanks (2004, English), Robert M. Baird (2005, Philosophy), Kevin Pinney (2006, Chemistry), Ann Rushing (2007, Biology), Wallace L. Daniel (2008, History), William D. Hillis (2009, Biology), Joyce Jones (2010, Music), Robert F. Darden (2011, Journalism), Roger E. Kirk (2012, Psychology and Neuroscience), William H. Bellinger Jr. (2013, Religion), Joseph A. McKinney (2014, Economics) and David L. Jeffrey (2015, Great Texts).


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.