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Passionate, student-focused psychology instructor Hendricks dies

March 12, 2013 By Chris Barncard

Photo: Bryan Hendricks and class

Bryan Hendricks with his students in Psych 225: Experimental Psychology. The students developed t-shirts illustrating research concepts from the class as a surprise.

Bryan Hendricks, who became a student favorite during 12 years as an instructor in the Psychology Department, died Friday morning at age 66 following an illness that had recently forced his retirement.

“I take some comfort in knowing that Bryan got to do what he loved most — teach and meet and work with students until the end of his life,” Patricia Devine, professor of psychology and department chair, wrote of Hendricks to department colleagues. “Even after retiring in December, he continued to meet with students at Union South.”

It was the quality and drive Hendricks saw in UW–Madison’s psychology students that drew him to campus.

“In his last lecture, he compiled a slide show of his education and entire life. It moved me to tears. I have never met another instructor in my life so passionate.”

Kelsea Kierstead

After earning his doctorate in 1973 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hendricks found the teaching-focused position he wanted at what is now the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County. Thirty years later he was spending his summers teaching at UW–Madison, and commuting three hours from the Wausau campus during fall and spring to work with students here.

In 2005 he left UW–Marathon County, resigning a tenured faculty position to become a full-time lecturer in Madison — technically a demotion.

“Bryan recognized that the future lies with the students, and he did everything he could to prepare them for the challenges they would face post-graduation,” Devine wrote.

Princeton Review tapped Hendricks in 2012 for its “The Best 300 Professors” guidebook based on rave reviews from students like Kelsea Kierstead.

Kierstead, who was in Hendricks’ statistics course, Psychometric Methods, in the fall, joined many fellow students in eulogizing Hendricks on Twitter.

“What made me really appreciate Bryan was his dedication and outstanding achievements,” Kierstead recalled Monday. “In his last lecture, he compiled a slide show of his education and entire life. It moved me to tears. I have never met another instructor in my life so passionate.”

Hendricks worked to integrate computers into instruction and administration in the UW Colleges, and developed software once used by all 13 UW Colleges campuses for timetable development, student registration and even billing, grading and room scheduling. In Madison he added to his teaching duties pivotal roles in academic advising, the Summer Collegiate Experience and work with the Writing Center.

He conducted research studying high school dropouts and predictors of academic success among Hmong students in Wausau, where he also worked with the UW–Madison Family Practice Residency Clinic. His studies of childhood obesity received national media attention, and provided grist for lessons on the practice of research and experimental design that his students found particularly useful.

According to Devine, Hendricks’ family is not planning an immediate public memorial.