She Was Mrs. CSU

‘She Was Mrs. CSU’

By Tony Phifer

Elegant but feisty, she was just as comfortable working the fields on the family farm south of Longmont as she was dressing up for CSU’s annual 1870 banquet, which she and Jim helped establish.

You can’t really sum up Nadine Henry in a couple of words, though many have tried.

Nadine, who died May 30 following a remarkable life that spanned 95 years, was a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, rancher, horsewoman, master chef and forever positive person. She and husband Jim – they met and fell in love while attending Colorado A&M – were the consummate CSU supporters, wearing their green and gold proudly over the course of eight decades. Jim died in 2006.

“When I think of Nadine and Jim, well, they personified what CSU is all about,” said Jan Woods, who knew the Henrys for more than 30 years. “Really, she was CSU – Mrs. CSU.”

Elegant but feisty, she was just as comfortable working the fields on the family farm south of Longmont as she was dressing up for CSU’s annual 1870 banquet, which she and Jim helped establish. She instilled her values – humility, hard work, kindness, competitiveness, leadership, fair play and dedication to family – into each of her four children: Denzel, Linda, Kathleen and Sharon.

“My mom lived on the same hill south of Longmont her entire life, other than the four years she was in college,” said daughter Kathleen Henry, who has been the President/CEO of the CSU Research Foundation since 1988, as well as serving as President/CEO of the CSU Foundation since 1990. “Even though both of my parents came from well-educated families, we never had excess money and lived very simply. We were taught to smile about what we had and not to complain about what we didn’t have.

“The power of positive thinking – that was one of mom’s favorite sayings.”

Kathleen described Nadine as “an amazing mom” who seemed to squeeze 30 or more hours into every 24-hour day. Not only was she primarily responsible for raising four children, she helped Jim care for 400-plus cattle and bring in the crops at harvest. The Henrys were iconic leaders in Colorado’s agricultural community, particularly in the Longmont area.

Nadine demanded much of her children – they all took music lessons, helped on the farm and participated in sports but were expected to excel in the classroom.

“Whenever we had a swim meet, or had an animal to show at the National Western (Stock Show), she was there with us,” Kathleen said. “Looking back, I have no idea how she did it. She would arrive in the middle of a field during harvest with cold drinks and a plate of warm cookies just when everyone needed a break. When we had a swim meet she would be there to cheer us on or would deliver a warm meal for all of us when we worked late life-guarding at the pool. Nobody else’s mom did that.

“She was the driver, the cheerleader, the support system and the person who always told us to look on the bright side if things didn’t go our way.”

When she wasn’t cheering for her own children and later her grandchildren and great grandchildren, Nadine was cheering for her second “family” – the CSU Rams. The family made thousands of trips to Fort Collins over the years to watch their beloved Rams compete in football and men’s and women’s basketball. The family made a day of it on fall Saturdays, stopping at the old A&W Restaurant for burgers before the game and dinner downtown that evening.

The Henrys for more than 50 years were part of a supper club that included five couples, all with ties to CSU. They sat together at home games and traveled together to big road games.

One of the first big trips came in 1949 when the Rams played Occidental College in the Raisin Bowl in Fresno, Calif. The Henrys and their friends rode the train to the game – a heartbreaking 21-20 loss in the school’s first-ever bowl appearance – but were stranded in Utah by a snowstorm on the return trip. Nadine’s parents had agreed to watch the children (Sharon had not yet been born) while they were away.

“Apparently I wasn’t a very good baby,” Kathleen said, laughing. “When my mom walked in the door, my grandmother handed me to her and said, ‘I never want to take care of this child again!’ ”

Over the years the Henrys attended several other bowl games and NCAA basketball appearances. Along the way they started to collect memorabilia – enough of it that they needed to create a special place to display it all. They called it – naturally – the Ram Room.

Located in the basement of their home, the Ram Room contained programs, photos and other mementos gathered during more than 60 years of fandom. The room became the preferred place for their many parties and their nightly “cocktail hour” when the family would gather before dinner to unwind after a long day in the fields.

The Ram Room has many unique items, including one of the few existing programs from the 1949 Raisin Bowl, a shovel used in the Hughes Stadium groundbreaking ceremony, and a blanket given to Dr. Duane Hartshorn, Nadine’s uncle, who was team physician for CSU football for nearly 30 years. Hartshorn Health Center is named for him.

Following Nadine’s death, the family decided the best course of action for the Ram Room was to donate some items to CSU’s Alumni Association and some for display in the Hall of Fame area at Moby Arena. The rest will be donated for sale at the annual Ram Good Time Auction to support student-athlete scholarships.

“That would make mom and dad smile,” Kathleen said.

The Henrys, though, were much more than Ram sports fans. They donated their time and treasure across campus, particularly to the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Health and Human Sciences. Hundreds of students over the years benefitted from the three endowed scholarships the Henrys created.

In 1988, the Alumni Association initiated the Jim and Nadine Henry Award, given annually to alumni who exemplify extraordinary service to CSU and its academic, athletic and alumni programs. Much to their surprise – but no one else’s – the Henrys were named “Alumni of the Century” in 2000 for their lifelong dedication to CSU and its students.

“That award was just overwhelming to them,” Kathleen recalled. “Honestly, I believe it was the greatest thing that ever happened to either one of them. That’s what was so special about them – it was never about them. It was about doing whatever they could to make the university better and provide opportunities for others to get the same great education
they had.”

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