As Almeda Jacks and other members from the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs were putting together the final touches on a ceremony this week to honor longtime administrative coordinator Kathy Hensen, she accidentally made one little oversight.

Out of habit, she had added Hensen — who is set to retire from her position after 18 years of service to the university on Nov. 1 — to the text message thread.

“We were going over who was going to present what and when, and as soon as I hit send on the message, I realized I had just sent it to Kathy as well,” Jacks laughed. “I just yelled out from my office, ‘Quit reading, quit reading!’”

Hensen, typically a behind-the-scenes type, took center stage Monday afternoon in the lobby of the Alumni Center. Family, friends and colleagues from across the university gathered to celebrate a career that spanned 15 years with the Vice President’s office and three prior to that with what is now the Staff Senate.

Jacks began the celebration by providing Hensen with a football signed by Head Coach Dabo Swinney. An avid Clemson sports fan, one of her biggest thrills to date occurred this fall when the Tiger football team played host to Georgia Southern. She was on the field during the first quarter to be announced as the Staff Member of the Game and spent time in the President’s Suite as well.

Jacks continued by reading a letter from President Jim Clements:

“Dear Kathy, congratulations to you on your upcoming retirement. After 18 years of service to Clemson University and all the students to pass through Sikes Hall during your tenure, and from your first few years assisting the Staff Senate to your hard work in Student Affairs, your leadership and dedication leaves a legacy of professionalism with a personal touch that sets Clemson apart. Thank you for everything you have done to keep Vice President’s Office running smoothly and for your support that impacted the Clemson Experience for so many students. While my schedule would not allow me to attend your reception today, Beth and I would like to wish you and Jack (husband) all the best as you begin a new chapter in life and leisure, while enjoying your grandchildren. Again, congratulations on your retirement and thank you for all you have done at Clemson. Go Tigers!”

George Smith, associate vice president and chief of staff for Student Affairs, was next on the agenda. In her role, Hensen has been responsible for managing many aspects of the office, including coordination of the oft-full calendars of both Jacks and Smith.

Kathy Hensen honored at her Oct. 29 retirement celebration from Student Affairs Vice President's Office colleagues (L-R) Karen Addis, Almeda Jacks and George Smith

Kathy Hensen was honored for 18 years of service to Clemson University in a special retirement celebration Monday. She is pictured alongside members of the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, (L-R) Karen Addis, Almeda Jacks and George Smith.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Smith presented Hensen with a plaque commemorating her service.

“I can’t say enough wonderful things about Kathy,” he said. “When I crashed the party and moved in to Sikes Hall a few years ago, she was so warm and welcoming and took such great care of all of us.”

Karen Addis, who has shared office space alongside Hensen for 14 years, did not know Hensen at first, but now considers her like an extended family member. She presented Hensen with a gift from the entire suite.

In typical Hensen fashion, she had to be prodded to speak to the folks gathered in her honor Monday.

“As our kids were growing up, I always told them, ‘Surround yourself with good people,’” she said. “So, I thank everyone here for helping me do my job as well as I could. Thank you for scrambling your calendars and for getting information when I needed it. But most of all, thank you for the smiles and support.”

It’s easy to smile when thinking about Kathy Hensen. She will be sorely missed.

NOTE: View photos from the event HERE.