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Ruth Henry: a look at life success

Chris Pepple | 

Anne Frank once wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Dr. Ruth Henry (’74), associate professor of exercise science at Lipscomb University, never waits a moment before planning and implementing ways to improve the world around her. Her work at Lipscomb University and in the broader community embodies her faith and her commitment to combining academic excellence in her field with excellence through service.

Henry attended Lipscomb from kindergarten through college, receiving her bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb in 1974. She also holds a master’s degree in wellness and fitness and a doctorate in physical education from Middle Tennessee State University.

Henry returned to Lipscomb in 1992 and has taught classes in exercise science, health and physical education. She also serves as the coordinator for Lipscomb’s faculty/staff wellness program which provides wellness opportunities for faculty and staff from both the university and campus schools. This program promotes healthier lifestyles among the Lipscomb family. Henry coordinates wellness seminars, wellness consultations, fitness assessments and opportunities for exercise, education and fellowship.

Henry brings together students and staff in a personal training program. Interested staff and faculty can request a personal trainer to assist with getting started in an exercise program. A senior exercise science student is assigned to each interested person. The student, while supervised by exercise science faculty, conducts an initial consultation and evaluation then designs a personalized exercise program for each individual. The services, which are free, benefit the students as well as the faculty and staff members.

“The exercise incentives and seminars are a chance to really make a difference in the quality of life for people,” Henry states. “Whether I am teaching older adults in the lifelong learning program or teaching college students, I have an opportunity to help class members see how they can develop lifestyle habits that improve all aspects of their lives. So many pitfalls that cause health problems in people are preventable. Many people just need the education and motivation to seek out overall health in their lives.”

Henry enjoys seeing her students go on to help others after they graduate from Lipscomb. The Department of Kinesiology prepares students for careers in exercise science, health and physical education and coaching. Exercise science students typically enter careers in the health and fitness industry or pursue graduate work in exercise physiology, cardiac rehabilitation, or other health science areas such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or therapeutic recreation.

“With the aging population that we are facing,” Henry states, “there is an increased demand for professionals in the fields of physical and occupational therapy. The demand will only grow over the next few years. It parallels our increased need for nurses and pharmacists.”

Henry recently discovered another way to serve the Lipscomb community. She became part of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) steering team which worked towards developing the SALT project as part of Lipscomb’s reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The acronym SALT stands for serving and learning together. Service-learning is a teaching and learning methodology that integrates the learning of academic content with active community engagement.

“Our committee polled students and faculty to come up with a plan that really benefited the community, the university and the students,” Henry said. “The SALT Project will enhance the academic studies of our students, give faculty members new options for course designs and partner Lipscomb with the larger community.”

Henry often finds ways to become involved with the larger community. Along with her husband Philip, who is an elder at Hillsboro Church of Christ, she coordinates the educational aspect of premarital counseling for engaged couples. She volunteers as a service day coordinator at Lipscomb and has traveled on five mission trips with students—one to England, three to Honduras and one to Jamaica. “Every situation highlights a need,” she states. “On some trips, we serve people by addressing their physical needs as we share our faith. Some areas, however, are very modern, yet very secular and the spiritual needs seem so deep. When I serve, I gain more than I give. I see some people so excited to have shelter for the first time. It teaches me to be more content with the plenty I have.”

Henry also serves as the chair of the academic integrity committee at Lipscomb University. In 2004, the academic integrity committee worked with faculty, staff and students to develop a new academic integrity policy. Lipscomb University welcomed a new approach to academic integrity by installing the Academic Integrity Council and founding a Community of Faith covenant among members of the Lipscomb community. “When a violation of our honor code occurs,” Henry states, “we help seek the appropriate solution for everybody involved. Our ultimate goal is to help the student in the long run, which isn't always the easiest action to take. This is not a fun job, but it is necessary.”

When Henry serves the community, teaches at Lipscomb or designs wellness programs for faculty and staff members, she hopes to help people find life success. “Life success is not about serving our own needs. Health is not about trying to look better. Life success is about making choices that improve the quality of life for ourselves and others and doing it all as part of living out our faith.”