John F. Henry

henry photo

John F. Henry, 77, died September 26, 2020 at his home in Kansas City, MO, following a long association with leukemia.

He was the son of Forrest J. and Beulah R. Henry (née Richard) of Red Hill, PA. He attended Upper Perkiomen High School and graduated from Muhlenberg College in 1965.  He subsequently attended McGill University, Montreal, receiving his M.A. in 1967 and his Ph.D. in 1974. He taught at California State University – Sacramento from 1970 through 2003 and thereafter at the University of Missouri – Kansas City until 2014. He finished his academic life as senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute, Bard College, New York. 

Dr. Henry made contributions to heterodox economics, particularly in the fields of history of economic thought, economic history, and political economy. He is the author of two books, John Bates Clark (Macmillan, 1995) and The Making of Neoclassical Economics (Unwin Hyman, 1990; reprinted by Routledge, 2011). He published over 50 journal articles and book reviews, and he contributed to ten books of collected essays.

The CSUS School of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies awarded Dr. Henry the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1998 and the Outstanding Service Award in 2003.  In 2001 he was selected by the university to deliver the John C. Livingston Annual Faculty Lecture, the highest honor bestowed by the faculty of that institution.

Dr. Henry served various economics associations for many years, including as president of the Association for Institutional Thought, member of the Steering Committee of the International Confederation of Association for Pluralism in Economics, and member of the editorial boards of Forum for Social Economics and Journal of Economic Issues. More important than his published work was his role as an educator. His main objective in his teaching career was to help liberate the minds of students from the shackles of conventional thought.

Dr. Henry was married to Charlene Heinen, originally from Loose Creek, MO, for 41 years.  He has two daughters, Jennifer Woods (Tom) and Leith Henry, both of Sacramento, CA, from a previous marriage to Barbara Henry (née Brode) of Sumneytown, PA.  Predeceasing Dr. Henry were his parents and two sisters, Mary Jane Maley and Georgianna Kressly.

Memorial Contributions

Commemorative donations may be made to the Frederic S. Lee Heterodox Economics Scholarship Fund, in care of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, 1055 Broadway Blvd., Suite 130,
Kansas City, MO 64105.

29 Comments

  1. Mario Seccareccia on November 7, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    He will forever be remembered. He was my first economics teacher at McGill University and an admiral intellectual who stood for economic and social justice and who rejected mainstream economics for its sterility. Despite the obvious distance that separated us (over 1,200 miles from Kansas City, USA, to Ottawa, Canada), we had become truly very good friends over the last decade. I wish to offer my deepest condolences to Charlene and also to his two daughters, and other close family members, as well as to the army of former students who will continue to be inspired by his teaching and research.

  2. Gary McFarland on November 6, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Letter from John F. Henry, 12/10/97. “I want to thank you for your presentation of December 4 to the Economics 181 class. It was exceedingly well done, and, as the question period demonstrated, elicited a very good response. In fact, several students approached me after the class session, seeking more information on the topic. So, thanks very much for taking the time to prepare and deliver your lecture. I certainly appreciated it. I’ll be in touch with you in the future to ask for a repeat performance.
    Sincerely, John F. Henry Professor”
    I first met John in Summer 1987. We laughed years later as he related that he had sized me up quickly — middle-age male, front row, took lots of notes, asked nothing, would drop out in three weeks. I stayed longer, and took three additional classes from John, earning an A- in each. When I joked about never being able to earn an A in his classes, he calmly informed me that my work was excellent, but he knew I could do more. He seemed to have little tolerance for laziness of any kind.
    John was an inspiring lecturer and mentor to me and many other students. His intellectual honesty and rigor were intense, as was his anger at assaults on human rights and dignity, so many of which were supported by academic dishonesty, which he abhorred. I know I was a better person in my various roles than I would have been absent John’s influence and friendship. I am certain there are many more who made better choices in their later lives thanks to his excellence in teaching.
    The letter referenced above became one of my most precious keepsakes. Anyone who took a class from John learned that he zealously guarded his instruction minutes, seldom giving any up for any external distraction. That he gave an entire class session over to me absolutely terrified me at the time, and I have never worked harder on any presentation. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting him down, for you see, I was nobody in particular. No advanced degrees, no great academic honors. But he thought I could do more. I think I finally earned my A that day. How I miss that man. But, let’s all carry on, shall we?

  3. Eric Glock on October 13, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    I remember walking into John’s classroom over twenty years ago at Sac State. After dropping many an introductory econ. class, just sensing the mind-numbing lies, I was stunned with wonder as Dr. Henry made the revolutionary statement that primitive peoples were “Commies.” From that point on his teaching was so strong that I became rapidly and permanently engaged in Economic Theory. I later studied the History of Economic Thought with him and his teaching was again so lucid. I almost get chills at the memories of him and those times. His office always had such a sweet fragrance and the Venus figurine that seemed central to it; we would chat on a near regular basis.

    After returning to the States after seven years in China, I was again amazed to find at Wright State University in Fairborn, OH that one of the textbooks assigned (and taught by one of his former students) in the M.S. History of Thought Class was authored by Dr. Henry and that my journey with Heterodox Economics was far from over. He is the reason that I am in Economics, and he has had a profound influence on me–shaping my life.

    God bless your immortal Soul, Dr. John Henry, you are the spitting image of John Maynard Keynes whom you so engagingly discussed and ever the friend of the working man and womyn. Here’s to our mutual friend, Good Ole’ Uncle Joe, and I hope to see you in another life!

  4. Nicola R. Matthews on October 10, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    I knew John F. Henry as a teacher, a mentor, and as a friend. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to take a class with him until my fourth semester, this did not impose a hindrance in the development of our relationship. He was that kind of person. He had a presence and always took an interest in the students. As a teacher he most certainly made you think and his wealth of knowledge in economics and history, as well as his humor and wit, made hours of conversation always interesting and engaging. John’s work reflects his humanity and compassion as he stood on the side of the trampled and downtrodden. His work contributes and will continue to contribute to this unending struggle for a more equitable world. John’s most significant personal attribute however was his ability to make an impression and to have an influence. He touched my life as he did with so many others. I’m so grateful to have met him. He will be deeply missed.

  5. Smile Dube on October 8, 2020 at 10:46 pm

    I was interviewed in New York by John Henry and Peter Lund in 1988 for a job at Sac State. After a campus visit early in 1989 I was offered a job but at the time I had four other job offers. It was John who persuaded me to take the job at Sac State when I was on the verge of going to either New Hampshire or New Mexico. He was that persuasive but overbearing and had the familiar dry sense of humor I enjoyed very much from my years in London.

    Over the years he was a very supportive and since our offices were opposite along the hall in Tahoe Hall, he often would stop by and go ‘Say, —” and we would enjoy a good banter over some colonial stuff. Not only was a brilliant economist he was also driven by the need to see social justice.
    John and Charlene twice invited me to their house and I did feel absolutely welcome. To most people who met John, he was truly a forward thinker and the world is worse off without him.
    As the Cockney saying goes: he is off to the angels.

    • Eric Glock on October 13, 2020 at 1:48 pm

      Wow, great comment! An an interview with Richard Thomas he reminded us that the Irish wak is a celebration of a soul going to a better world. I remember very fondly your twin office in Tahoe Hall and all the interactions with the both of you!

  6. Andres F. Cantillo on October 7, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    I am very thankful to Professor Henry. He was a very important voice of encouragement and guidance. Virgil in Dante’s Divine Comedy comes to mind. I remember most of the conversations that we had over economic theory and career-related matters. They were all charged with meaning.

  7. Susan Bockius on October 6, 2020 at 7:56 am

    A few days ago, David Genszler, Barbara (Leibensperger) McNulty and I met on Zoom for a “Memories of John Henry” session. We had all been in the same high school class together, but David had also grown up in Red Hill with John (same Boy Scout Troop), and Barb had been in band with him, and double dated with him and Barbara Brode. We had a blast remembering the irreverent fun of the good ole days. Thank you John. We will miss you.

  8. Robert McMaster on October 5, 2020 at 9:51 am

    I met John over a decade ago during one of my (academic) sojourns to the USA. I was immediately struck by his kindness and humour. I learned from his scholarly work and his wise counsel. He made a valuable contribution to economic thinking. I also greatly appreciated his hospitality, sociability, and wonderful sense of humour and fun. Even from afar, John’s e-mailed jokes had me chuckling (and/or groaning) out loud. Conferences will be poorer in many ways without John (and Fred Lee, the other half of an outstanding double act). As with others, I have a sense of loss with John’s passing, but I feel privileged to have known him and counted him as a friend.

    I hope the knowledge that John was greatly admired by many (around the World), is of some comfort to Charlene and his family and many friends.

  9. Alla Semenova on October 4, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    I met John Henry in 2005 when I was an M.A. student at the UMKC Economics Department. I would frequently chat with John at his office, and I was always amazed with his breadth of knowledge, sharpness of mind, extremely high productivity, positive attitude, a great sense of humor and, above all, a sense of humanity. Always compassionate, supportive, and helpful, John wrote reference letters for my job searches, gave generous feedback on my research, nominated me for the Joseph Dorfman Best Dissertation Award, and supported me during difficult times in my life. John was a treasure, a wonderful human being, one of a kind. Thank you, John, for everything you’ve done for me. I miss you a lot, and you will always remain a source of positivity and encouragement for me.

  10. Tracy Mott on October 3, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    He was a wonderful person!!!

  11. Michael Grimaldi on October 1, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    I was privileged to work with John on Jobs Now!, a collaboration of professors and just plain folks interested in helping the world understand economic principles in everyday terms. He never struck me as the accomplished academic that he was. He struck me as a concerned person who was as comfortable at a protest rally as he was in a classroom. I will always treasure those days in large part because of his quiet humor and always insightful views. May he rest in eternal peac.

  12. Eric Tymoigne on October 1, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    I met John around 2002/3 in while completing my PhD in Kansas City. Over the years, we had wonderful conversations about politics, economics, history and social issues and he was very generous with his time. In the summer of 2005, after stumbling on Briffault’s “The Mothers” at the UMKC library, I became interested in learning more about tribal societies. John, who of course knew and appreciated Briffault’s work, agreed to create a reading list and to meet with me regularly to discuss the readings. This one-on-one unofficial course during the Fall of 2005 was one of the best learning experience I had in my life and it became a point of entry into the radical political economy literature. RIP Comrade Henry.

  13. Stephanie A Kelton on October 1, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Like many here, I was a student on John’s. Thinking back to my first encounter with him, I realize that I could have enrolled in any number of sections of Intermediate Micro more than 25 years ago, many taught by different members of the faculty at California State University, Sacramento. I was an accounting/finance major at the time. I suppose John’s course fit my schedule best, and that random choice led me to economics, to Cambridge, and to a long and close relationship with John and Charlene. Over the last decade or so, my family spent nearly ever major holiday with John and Charlene. My kids think of them as surrogate grandparents. There is a big hole in my heart, but I keep thinking about how John ended every visit/phone call with me. Instead of saying goodbye, he’d say, “Carry on.” And so we must.

    • Eric Glock on October 13, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      When I was in China he closed an email with, “Keep on Trucking.” Sage counsel indeed.

  14. Paul Downward on October 1, 2020 at 2:14 am

    I met John whilst he visited Staffordshire University in the UK and remained in contact afterwards not least of which because of my Post Keynesian links with the late great Fred Lee. John was a man of great humour and irony which blended in perfectly with colleagues at Staffordshire – from taking part in the weekly caption contest – to looking to subtly subvert the onset of semesters and modularisation in UK education along with the rest of us in the face of the onslaught of university bureaucracy. He was fun to be around. I remember the disbelief on his face and tears in his eyes from the laughter that in the UK, on mainstream prime time television, you could watch shepherds herding their sheep into pens (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Man_and_His_Dog)….only in the UK. John was one of the good guys, from an era when education was about critique, mutual respect, learning and development rather than the anarchic, transactional chasing of performance metrics. I will miss him and his emails!

  15. Peter Eaton on September 30, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    John was a good friend and a colleague at UMKC. His devotion to our students was an example that we tried to emulate.Together with Fred Lee, he built our Ph.D. program.
    I will miss his sense of humor, his
    intellect, and the good bourbon he always brought when visiting.

  16. Lori Brown on September 30, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    I was fortunate to meet John while studying Electrical Engineering at CSUS. I took the Economics of Racism course from John; and beyond this course, and up until recently, John continued to share his brilliance and wisdom with me. John had a wonderful sense of humor. I loved bantering back and forth with him. John was my mentor, confidenate, and friend. John had a huge impact on my life…offered me life-altering advice and counsel. I truly loved him; he was a wonderful human being. He modeled decency, high character, intellect, class, style, and humor. I will cherish all of my memories of John.

    Charlene, my deepest sympathy to you, Jennifer, and Leith. May John’s love and precious memories provide you with comfort during this difficult time of loss. Peace Be Still.

  17. Shirley Laird on September 30, 2020 at 10:24 am

    We are saddened by the passing of John. We were so lucky to have him and Charlene as neighbors and friends. He was a great person and our 2 granddaughters just loved him. He was always willing to share knowledge with them. He would show them owls, fish, feathers and many other things. They lovingly called him “Our Neighbor John“ And he is certainly missed.

  18. William R. Baca Mejia on September 30, 2020 at 8:24 am

    I remember arriving at KC in 2009, and the first professors who welcomed me were prof. Henry and Prof. Lee. Since my first day, Prof. Henry always checked whether I was feeling comfortable at UMKC and also helping me to navigate KC and UMKC in general. Eventually, he was my professor in two courses. Without doubt, his mastery convinced me that I wanted to become a professor with the same passion for reading and teaching as prof. Henry did. Every time we talked the last point in our agenda was the St. Louis Cardinals. I will miss talking to him about economics and the Cardinals.

  19. Aqdas Afzal on September 30, 2020 at 12:53 am

    My name is Aqdas Afzal and I now teach at Habib University in Karachi, Pakistan. I finished my PhD at UMKC on a Fulbright scholarship from 2012-2017. I was in the last graduate seminar that John taught before he left UMKC for Levy. I took that seminar at the urging of Stephanie Kelton. I have no doubt in my mind that during my very long academic career it was the best course I have ever taken and the toughest exam I have ever written. Being in his lecture was a singular treat every week. I just do wish I can do it again. John was also instrumental in my winning the AFIT prize because of his generous feedback. John also wrote my letters of recommendation even until last year. He was a gem of a person and extremely committed to education and students. He was also very funny and one of the sharpest minds I ever came across. I wish his memory all the respect, admiration and love. So long!

  20. Carol Lace Brown-Elliott, MD on September 29, 2020 at 10:24 pm

    Dr. John Henry….was a friend and mentor to me while I was a premedical student at CSUS. I loved talking to him. He was a true academician & family man. I have many memories of he & Charlene at many important milestones in my life. I owe my understanding of class society, racism, & sexism and the true solutions to these problems to John. All my love & sympathy to Charlene & his daughters.

  21. Steve Bauman on September 29, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    John was my best friend all through high school and although we didn’t see each other much after that, I treasure his memory and the few time we did meet in California and Kansas City. More recently we met in Pennsburg at our 50th year HS reunion. We had chance to laugh and relive fond memories. He had a unique sense of humor and ready laugh. Thank you Charlene for your love for him and taking care of him. Thank also for letting me know. I will miss him but always hold his memory close to my heart.

  22. Brian Nakamura on September 29, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    I was so fortunate to take John’s History of Economic Thought course back in the day and even bought his publication on the topic, which he graciously autographed and wrote that I was a bit of a “disequilibrium” student. Ironically the title still applies and we had a great laugh about such topics just two weeks ago. Rest in peace, mentor, friend, and colleague.

  23. Zdravka Todorova on September 29, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    John had a distinct presence at any event, and made any endeavor better with his involvement. Many scholarly communities, students, and colleagues will miss John Henry’s vast scholarly expertise, lively discussions, and support. He touched so many lives in positive and profound way. His wit, generosity, and good will is remembered by everybody who knew him.

    • Eric Glock on October 13, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Glad to share in this journey with Dr. Henry!

  24. Jack Ward on September 29, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I was Department Chair when John Henry joined the Economics Department at UMKC. I appreciated John’s great sense of humor and his rapport with students. John was a true scholar who took the time to explore all sides of an issue before issuing an often witty and unexpected opinion. He will be missed. Jack Ward

  25. Craig Gallet on September 28, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    I was fortunate to be one of John’s many students and later a colleague in the Department of Economics at Sacramento State. He was a wonderful teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend. Not only was he a highly gifted economist, but his sense of humor was infectious and would brighten the mood of anyone studying the “dismal science”!

    • Eric Glock on October 13, 2020 at 1:42 pm

      I didn’t know that you had studied under him (too) Dr. Gallet.

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