Remembering a Visionary Leader – Longtime College of Human Sciences Dean, June Henton passes away

June Marcum Henton, who served as dean of the College of Human Sciences for 34 years before retiring in 2019, passed away early Tuesday morning, August 22.

Henton, a revered colleague, friend, and visionary leader touched the lives of students, faculty and staff in her more than three decades of service to Auburn University from 1985 to 2019 where she was considered a national leader in the field of human sciences, transforming the field of study and setting the standard for other colleges.

Early under Henton’s leadership, the then School of Home Economics was a small, predominantly female school. It was Henton’s vision and tenacious leadership that led to changing the name to the School of Human Sciences and ultimately the establishment of the College of Human Sciences including multiple diverse degree offerings as it is known today. Henton is credited with pouring her heart and soul into a college that faced the possibility of being disbanded like other Home Economics programs at the time.

“June was a pioneer in her field,” Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts said. “With her hard work and determination, she and her colleagues succeeded in making the College of Human Sciences one of the premier programs in the country. June wasn’t afraid to take on a big idea and make it a reality. She consistently prioritized creating exceptional experiences for students in the College of Human Sciences, which helped lead to meaningful and successful careers. In addition, June was a leader among leaders. Her legacy will continue through all of us who have learned the art of leadership and love of Auburn from her example.”

College of Human Sciences Dean Susan Hubbard, who followed Henton in the position of leadership in 2019, says it is a privilege to carry on and build upon the strong legacy left by her mentor and friend.

"June Henton's profound impact on the College of Human Sciences remains indelible," Hubbard said. "Her influence extends immeasurably, touching countless individuals and families who have been enriched by her lifelong dedication. I am deeply thankful for the privilege of collaborating with and learning from her over the span of three decades. The robust foundation she established for the College of Human Sciences empowers us. We now honor and pay tribute to her legacy by courageously addressing novel challenges and opportunities within the human sciences disciplines."

Even though she retired more than four years ago, Henton’s fingerprints remain throughout the College of Human Sciences as she left an enduring mark with her teaching, research, outreach and establishment of multiple groundbreaking initiatives and programs.

Henton is credited with launching the National Textile Center University Research Consortium, the Women’s Philanthropy Board and the Elmer and Glenda Harris Early Learning Center. She dedicated substantial efforts to establishing the Hunger Solutions Institute, aimed at combatting global hunger, and in creating the International Quality of Life Awards. This prestigious award is now celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, showcasing Auburn University's international prominence and impact.

“Simply put, June is an Auburn icon, and I was privileged to work closely by her side for 20 years,” said Human Sciences Director of External Relations Emerita Harriet Giles. “What an extraordinary opportunity I was afforded to learn and grow in my professional role under her visionary leadership and trusted mentorship and then to have our working relationship evolve into the dearest of friendships. While our hearts are heavy, I hope together we can find comfort in celebrating our beloved colleague and friend and the beautiful legacy she has left for us to follow.”

After the turn of the millennium, Henton continued to expand the footprint of Auburn’s College of Human Sciences through a number of global programs and initiatives that included the establishment of the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Ariccia, Italy in 2002. This is Auburn University’s only permanent year-round overseas campus for study abroad and it came to fruition because Henton believed it was a necessity for quality international programming that opens students’ minds and broadens their worldviews. Two decades and hundreds of students later, Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall.

Continuing to bring the College of Human Sciences to new heights, Henton’s vision for the Hospitality Management Program, now the Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management, started back in 2003 through a University/Industry Hospitality Partnership formed with Capella Hotel Group CEO and Co-founder and former President of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Horst Schulze.

Focusing on service excellence, social and ethical responsibility, and diversity in a practically-oriented and globally challenging learning environment, the Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management has established a reputation for producing expertly prepared graduates eagerly sought after by industry leaders. Henton’s visionary leadership helped guide early discussions for what is now the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, the state-of-the-art home to the hospitality management program.

“I am personally extremely sad to lose this exceptional human being,” Schulze said. “And at the same time, happy to have been able to share in June’s ambition and excellence. She had a mind that could see the extraordinary and the intellectual strength to get you there. I am honored to have had this colleague and friend in my life for more than thirty years and will miss her greatly.”

Throughout her distinguished career, Henton earned multiple awards and accolades that included being honored nationally as a White House Champion of Change for her work in food security. She has also received official citations for her hunger-focused efforts from Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Moreover, Henton received the Ellen Swallow Richards Public Service Award, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Board on Human Sciences of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In addition, she was honored by the U.S. Green Building Council of Alabama for her leadership in sustainability. Henton has been recognized with several campus awards through the years, the most recent of which was the Pamela Wells Sheffield Award, presented to “a woman who best embodies selfless service and commitment to Auburn University and the Auburn family.”

For more on June Henton’s life and to share remembrances, click here for the family’s obituary.