The Henson Family Scholarship Opens Doors for Kentucky Students
Henry Levi Henson and his wife, Della Mae Holtzclaw Henson, were tenant farmers in Adair and Casey counties in Kentucky, attaining only an eighth-grade and third-grade education, respectively. Yet, their 10 children graduated from high school and four completed college degrees. Three of them graduated from Berea College in the middle of the Great Depression.
The oldest, Lawrence ’31, was the first in the family to go to college. Another, Hollis ’36, earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and went on to serve as Lee County (Ky.) agricultural extension agent until 1976. Hollis and his wife, Mary Louise, had five children who all completed high school and graduated from college—three graduated from Berea, and three earned one or more master’s degrees.
Education became a staple in the Henson family. Despite her lack of access to education, Della Mae was determined to support her children’s learning. When most families kept their kids out of school to help on the farm, the Hensons made sure their children continued to attend.
“It’s really all about education,” said Larry Henson ’64, Hollis’ son and a grandson of Levi and Della Mae. “It’s about grandmother and granddaddy and the family’s support of education.”
Larry’s affinity for Berea grew when he returned as a mathematics instructor in 1966 after earning his master’s degree at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He soon was involved in a successful grant proposal for the College’s first computer system and went on to be Berea’s first computer center director, where he served until 1981.
In his grandparents’ honor, Larry started an endowed scholarship at Berea College to assist students from Casey and Lee counties in obtaining the education his family so passionately believes in. Several members of the Henson family contribute to the fund, which has helped support life-changing opportunities for its recipients.
“In my time as a student and then on staff, I really came to believe in what Berea is doing,” Larry said, “and I wanted to support that as much as I could.”