The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Joe Hendricks Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

August 4, 2014


Jon Albert "Joe" Hendricks was born in 1943 in northern Idaho. Not long after his birth, Hendricks' family moved to Seattle, where he grew up with his father and two siblings.

Hendricks received his B.A. in sociology from the University of Washington in 1966. Urged by his professors to further his education, Hendricks attended the University of Nevada for graduate school, with an initial focus on clinical psychology. Over time Hendricks' interests shifted, leading him first to social psychology and later to gerontology. He received his M.A. in sociology in 1968 and proceeded to Pennsylvania State University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1971.

His schooling completed, Hendricks moved on to the University of Kentucky, where he was hired as a member of the Sociology Department. As an outgrowth of his research interest in gerontology, Hendricks taught in both the College of Arts and Sciences and in the university's medical school, and developed a reputation as a creative and productive scholar.

In 1988 Hendricks and his fiancée relocated to Oregon State University. After seventeen years at Kentucky, Hendricks was drawn both to OSU's geographic location and to its academic climate; particularly its acceptance of interdisciplinary research. In 1989, one year after his arrival, Hendricks became chair of the Department of Sociology. During his first few years at OSU, Hendricks was also involved in the university's Minority Affairs Commission as a co-chair. This commission sought out the perspectives of minority-group staff and faculty at OSU, aiming to improve the environment for people of color on campus.

In 1995 Hendricks was appointed the first Dean of the University Honors College (UHC). This shift coincided with his also becoming the President of the educational branch of the Gerontological Society of America. Though administrative duties dominated Hendricks' time while UHC Dean, he continued to actively research topics in gerontology for the remainder of his OSU career. Of particular note, in the mid-1990s he published an influential paper on chaos theory in social gerontology which challenged the idea of looking for central tendencies when evaluating gerontological data and instead proposed that researchers seek out branching points within the data.

An honors program had existed at OSU for many years prior to the creation of the UHC, but it had been shuttered since 1991, a victim of budget cuts brought about by the passage of Oregon's property tax limitation Ballot Measure 5. Launched four years later, the UHC differed markedly from the previous honors program in that it offered an honors baccalaureate degree, was university wide, and was open to all majors. The college also implemented a three-pronged admissions strategy which examined test scores, grades, and writing skills in evaluating candidates for entry. Over time, the UHC established an honors dorm (McNary Hall) and a devoted UHC study space in the basement of Strand Agricultural Hall. The college also quickly grew its enrollments and attracted numerous faculty interested in teaching honors courses.

Hendricks stepped down from his post as Dean in 2008, retired from OSU in 2009, and now resides in Bend, Oregon. He is the author of over 150 articles and multiple books. He is also the recipient of several awards, notably including the 2004 Tibbitts Award from the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education, the 2009 Robert W. Kleemeier Award from the Gerontological Society of America, and the 2011 Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Sociological Association.