C of I remembers President Emeritus Robert Hendren

College of Idaho President Emeritus Robert Lee Hendren, Jr. was born in Reno, Nevada on Oct. 10, 1925. He died of cancer on May 20, 2015. Between those dates, he distinguished himself as a scholar, confirmed the virtues of independent enterprise and guided Idaho’s best college into an era of financial stability.

A memorial service for President Emeritus Hendren will be held on Saturday, May 30, at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s in Boise, 518 N. 8th Street.

“He was always gracious with his time and wisdom during Laurie’s and my time at the College,” said current C of I President Marv Henberg. “The College and the whole YoteFam share in his loss and express condolences to his widow Merlyn and to all his family and friends.”

Upon graduation from Boise High School, Hendren attended the University of Idaho. He then met and married Merlyn Churchill of Gooding and went on to become a successful furniture and fashion magnate in Boise.

Hendren’s organizational skills and imaginative approach to business helped him to rise in the world of commerce, and his concern with the role of citizens in improving their lives made his contributions to Boise’s public schools a natural activity. He served on the Boise Public School Board of Education, first as a member and then as a chairman of that group, for nearly ten years.

That period of time provided Hendren with experience overseeing the management of a successful educational establishment—preparation that he put to good use when he was called to serve as a C of I trustee and, finally, as the chief administrator of Idaho’s oldest college. He became The College of Idaho’s ninth president in 1987 and served in that capacity until 1999. And he was a great president.

“I hope and expect that in the next decade, the value of the private liberal arts education will be trumpeted from every corner of this campus, this state, this nation. I believe that it is the liberal arts that help people discover both their souls and their minds,” Hendren said during his convocation address in 1996.

Under Hendren’s guidance, the College scored another Rhodes Scholarship, its sixth. If one insists that a good private college must possess a growing endowment, then under Bob Hendren’s watchful eye, that problematic entity began to improve. While many colleges began to comment upon overworked fundraisers and diminishing financial resources, such was not the case in Caldwell. Budgets were being met and endowments began to show a positive monochromatic (all black) value.

Hendren was responsible for fundraising that built the College’s J.A. Albertson Activity Center, the Kathryn Albertson International Center, and the Langroise Center for Performing and Fine Arts. He also was responsible for major remodels of Hendren Hall, Sterry Hall and the McCain Student Center.

Former Idaho Governor Robert E. Smylie had this to say about the president emeritus in Hendren’s biography, The Most of What We Spend:

“Robert Hendren was probably born to be a college president although it took fifty years to discover this fact…it is difficult and somewhat unfair to try to rank all of the good people who have labored in this academic vineyard, but it can be fairly stated that Robert L. Hendren ranks as one of the really great ones.”

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit