University News

WIU Biology Professor Emeritus Dr. Robert Henry
[Download Print-Quality Image]

WIU Alumnus Dr. Jerry Lang
[Download Print-Quality Image]

Alumnus Challenges WIU Grads During 2021 Western Challenge

April 21, 2021

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Gerald (Jerry) Lang, a 1968 Western Illinois University botany graduate, set up a scholarship at WIU many years ago in honor of his former professor, Robert Henry. This year during the Western Challenge 24-hour giving event, which will be held on Purple & Gold Day (April 24), Lang is encouraging fellow Leathernecks to donate to their alma mater with a matching gift challenge. For the April 24 Western Challenge, Lang has pledged to match the first $5,000 in gifts to the College of Arts and Sciences with a gift of his own to the Henry scholarship.

Henry taught botany in WIU's Department of Biological Sciences for 33 years, retiring in 1993 as professor emeritus. He joined the biology department in 1960 as an assistant professor. In addition to teaching botany classes, Henry was the curator of the herbarium at WIU beginning at 1977. During his tenure, he authored and co-authored numerous papers for professional journals, and was a member of many state, national and international botanical societies and organizations.

"I feel honored to have made a small positive impact on Jerry's remarkable and distinguished professional life," Henry said. "I am deeply appreciative of his scholarship and thank him very much. It was very kind of him."

Lang established the Robert Henry Biological Sciences Award for Botany in 1993 because of Henry's impact on his education and career. Lang recently retired from West Virginia University after a 43-year career. He joined the WVU faculty as an assistant professor of biology in 1976 and was promoted to professor in 1984. He served as provost and vice president for academic affairs for 13 years, as dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences for 10 years, and as chair of the Department of Forensic and Investigative Sciences.

"I came to WIU in 1963 as a first-generation college student. The first college lecture I attended was delivered by Dr. Robert Henry. He walked into class with a leaf he had taken off a tree on his way to class and asked: 'Is this leaf dead or alive?' After some discussion (with no firm resolution), he stuck the leaf on a bulletin board and proceeded to deliver his class lecture from a single 3x5 note card. I was riveted by the question, his manner of engaging students, his command of the course material, and his style of delivery," Lang recalled. "I was hooked. I chose to take every course Dr. Henry taught. His approach to transferring knowledge was powerful. I write this statement nearly 60 years later, with that first lecture still vividly imprinted in my mind. I modeled my own future teaching style to reflect that of Dr. Henry's. I even used his leaf story on occasion because of the power of its message."

"My journey began at WIU. Along that journey, I encountered many guides, but none like the first one. For me, that was Robert Henry. He was my inspiration, he was my role model, he was the college professor I wanted to emulate in my future college career," Lang added. "Student success comes through the influence of faculty mentors who are student-centered, inspiring and guiding students to unleash their curiosity and achieve their potential; yet it remains the student's responsibility to meet those academic challenges. Dr. Henry was my mentor. He inspired me and helped form the foundation for my career, as I believe he did for other students as well. I am pleased to have established this award in his honor."

For more information, or to donate, visit

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations