Orbituary of Ken Henriksen

Orbituary of Ken Henriksen

By Per Stounbjerg, Head of Department,  School of Communication and Culture, and Niels Lehmann, Vice Dean, and former Head of Department, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University.

Translated by Martin Stigaard

 

Here at the school, we would like to say that we really appreciate Ken´s efforts throughout the years. Personally, we are both very grateful for having had the opportunity to work together with Ken. We have been greatly inspired by his warm compassion for people, by his power of mind, as well as by his clear-sightedness in matters related to education and by his social intelligence. His work here will not be forgotten.

Ken Henriksen came to Aarhus University as an assistant professor of Spanish in 2006, and was promoted to associate professor in 2009. He later became director of studies, first at the Dept. of Languages, Literature and Culture from 2010, and later at the new, large School of Communication and Culture.  His work at AU has been characterized by his never failing commitment. Alongside his academic work, he has carried heavy burdens for the school, as well as for AU as a whole, mainly as director of studies, but also as an important person in the academic environment related to Spanish, and as head of our Centre for Latin American Studies.

We have, first and foremost, been working together with Ken while he was the first director of Studies at the huge conglomerate of academic competencies that has now become known as the School of Communication and Culture. To a large extent, we have Ken to thank for the fact that the school even exists, and is functioning, today. From the very beginning, Ken was the constructive driving force behind our organisation. While many colleagues were getting increasingly frustrated, and we were being bombarded with cutbacks, degree programme resizing, study progress reform departmental accreditation etc., Ken tirelessly continued to stitch together the many little pieces that had, inevitably, been torn apart by the large reorganisation at AU. He strove to make our degree programmes more efficient, and he thought of new cooperation models to be used within the academic field of languages. As such; ken has played an important role in the process of making this new, large school work. This has, latest, but certainly not least, been the case in connection with the transfer of Business Communication from BCOM to CC. It is so unfair that he does not get to see the results of his efforts. Even though this part of his work was to last only five years, he has left a permanent mark on the school. He has done this through his clear vision, his industriousness, and not least, his personality. The multitude of greeting that he received from colleagues during the last days of his life goes to show how well-liked Ken was.

Ken was a very loveable person, and working together with him was a pleasure. With his constructive, pragmatic and solution-oriented attitude, he was able to put everything in its right place, in order to find a common path, which made troublesome compromises easier to live with. Ken was one of those rare people who are able to focus on the solution, from the very first moment he started analysing a problem. Or more precisely: He had the ability to focus upon various possible solutions. This is because Ken´s will to solve problems never ended up in him insisting on one specific solution. On the contrary, this desire manifested itself as an ability to consider many different alternatives, until the best (or, in some cases, the least poor) one was found. With Ken as director of studies, finding a negotiable path was always possible. However, in the real world, where one has to stretch across more than 50 degree programmes, catching the ball every single time is virtually impossible.  If, occasionally, a ball had been dropped, ken would always be the first to go an extra mile to pick it up, even if it meant that catching the remaining balls would become increasingly difficult. Throughout all these challenges, we never saw Ken lose his sense of humour.

Ken never spared himself. His work often took place at the expense of quality time with his family during weekends, when document had to be written, in order to make the discussion in the various committees etc. more qualified. Ken always proved to be very flexible, even when preparations could not take place until late in his work day, or during what should have been his spare time. He tirelessly commented on different proposals, or he accepted being the one given the task of having to put the first words down on a piece of paper, in order for the creative process to be carried on.

Very sadly, Ken and his family have had to go through a couple of tough years, which have included an almost unbearable element of uncertainty. It is hard to comprehend the fact that the cancer which Ken had stoically fought, and which we thought that he had overcome, suddenly turned out to become so aggressive that he had to leave us, practically without a warning. This is a huge shock. Ken was one of those rare people who really make a difference. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family. Even though Ken was very sociable, he was also a very private person, who managed to keep his private life separated from his work. However, Ken´s love for his family always shone through, whenever Ken talked about family trips, or took care of thing from his summer house, where he often stayed with his family.

Here at the school, we would like to say that we really appreciate Ken´s efforts throughout the years. Personally, we are both very grateful for having had the opportunity to work together with Ken. We have been greatly inspired by his warm compassion for people, by his power of mind, as well as by his clear-sightedness in matters related to education and by his social intelligence. His work here will not be forgotten.

Ken´s funeral takes place on Monday. March 13th, at 1 pm, at Mariebjerg Kirkegårds Kapel, Mariebjergvej 1, 2820 Gentofte.