Meet Dr. Walter Henne, 2022 Excellence Award Winner
At Convocation 2022, Dr. Walter Henne (’96,’99) was one of three professors to receive the Excellence Award, an award that recognizes excellence in teaching, performance of primary duties, research, and creative activity. Dr. Henne received recognition for his always evolving teaching methods, outstanding research and work with Governors State University’s media department to create pro-vaccination and COVID-19 safety articles for the GSU campus.
GSU Newsroom: What is your favorite place on campus and what do you like about it?
Henne: I enjoy viewing the Windwaves sculpture when I enter and exit campus. This sculpture used to be in Millennium Park and I would pass by it almost every day on my evening walks. It suddenly vanished. I was pleasantly surprised when the sculpture reappeared right near where I park on campus.
GSU Newsroom: Can you share some of your background that led you to teaching at GSU?
Henne: I am a BS/MS alumnus. I teach the same courses I had with my former mentor Joyce Mohberg. We still have a few items in the lab I helped her set up as a student.
GSU Newsroom: Congratulations on the Excellence Award! What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of that led you to this point?
Henne: I am most proud of my student success stories. Since I have had students engaged in the development and production of the Covid vaccines, their work has reached nearly every person on the planet. Given that chemistry and biology students work in so many areas (pharmaceuticals, food, diagnostics, etc.), it is hard to go a day without a GSU alumni touching some aspect of your life.
GSU Newsroom: How does your experience practicing medicine influence what you bring to the classroom?
Henne: I have always felt that having experience working with patients as an RN has helped in my medical research and in the classroom. Many of my students work or will go on to work in medically related fields or at pharmaceutical companies. Having had these diverse experiences helps me relate and structure my lecturers to match their interests. I have also had some very unusual experiences along the way that make a good story or two in lecture. Once I somehow found myself leading a medical emergency on a commercial airliner (no one else volunteered). It was very unusual having the captain ask me over the intercom if we should make an emergency landing.
GSU Newsroom: What do you uniquely offer students at GSU?
Henne: As an alumnus and a student that worked while in school, I have enormous empathy and understanding. I know what it like to work a midnight shift as a charge nurse and come to class the next morning with little to no sleep.
GSU Newsroom: What are you researching now? What’s next?
Henne: I am currently involved in cancer/disease research data mining. We have an enormous amount of data that other researchers struggle to analyze and access. I think most people understand these issues given the enormous amount of data released during the pandemic. In the next several months, I want to get more involved in air quality monitoring using remote and wearable sensors.
GSU Newsroom: Is there anything that you would like to share or to promote awareness of that was not mentioned?
Henne: Aside from folks needing keep up with their vaccine schedules, staying distanced when sick (if possible), etc., I think people need to pay special attention to mental health. We have all been through so much the last few years. A little (or a lot) of empathy can go a long way.