A Shared Legacy of Leadership

Tom Henderson

Tom Henderson, LA'77, LW'80, with a portrait of his grandmother, Florence Myers Wallace

Tom Henderson came to Drake University with a secret

Unbeknownst to his peers, Tom Henderson, LA’77, LW’80, began his undergraduate career as the grandson of Florence Myers Wallace, a 37-year member of Drake’s board of trustees (BOT). Despite his connections, Henderson was determined to make his own way, and by his junior year Henderson had been elected student body president. As a student leader, Henderson had the opportunity to share his thoughts with trustees at an annual banquet hosted by the board’s student life committee—and his grandmother.

Wallace, the first woman on the board, was instrumental in creating the student life committee and establishing the banquets in 1970.

“That time was very turbulent for the country and on campus, and the most important thing we needed was to trust each other,” says Don Adams, professor emeritus of education and retired vice president of enrollment management and student life, who was vice president of student life at the time. “Florence had a great reputation for listening to students and bringing their concerns to the board of trustees. She helped us regain the students’ trust with those meetings and dinners.”

In 2000, Adams recruited former student leaders at Drake, including Henderson, to be part of a new institution: the Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute (DVALI). Centering on experiential learning, DVALI helps prepare students to take on major leadership roles after graduation. Along with the Adams Academy, a cocurricular leadership development program for upperclass students, DVALI reinstated the student life committee banquets.

Today, the banquet concept has evolved into the Florence Myers Wallace Leadership Lunch. Henderson—who attended the banquets 40 years ago as a student—and his family sponsor and host the annual luncheon.

“As a BOT member, she really felt it was important to talk to students, find out what was on their minds, and try to make Drake a better place as a result,” Henderson says. “We’ve seen a lot of results from those meetings. It’s a terrific opportunity for the board members to meet with students and talk about Drake, and we hope to create lasting connections.”

—Danny Akright, JO’10, AS’10

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