Distinguished University Professor, 2003

Thomas S. Henricks.Thomas S. Henricks, Ph.D., joined the Elon faculty in 1977 after teaching for a year at the University of Indianapolis. The son of a college professor and a writer, Dr. Henricks grew up in Indianapolis and later attended North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. There he received his B.A. in sociology and anthropology.

After graduation, Dr. Henricks worked for two years as a social worker with the Department of Public Aid in Chicago. He then attended the University of Chicago where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in sociology. At Chicago, he maintained his interest in both sociology and anthropology. In that spirit, his master’s thesis combined a symbolic analysis of professional wrestling with a survey of wrestling fans. His interest in the study of sporting events as important societal rituals continued with his Ph.D. thesis, which focused on the relationship between sport and social stratification in pre-industrial England.

Dr. Henricks’ primary interests in the discipline include social theory, modernization and change, popular culture, social stratification, race and ethnic relations, and the sociology of play, games and sport. Much of his published work focuses on these themes as well. In 1981 and 1989, he received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue his research on English sport. His book on English sport, Disputed Pleasures: Sport and Society in Pre-industrial England, was published in 1991 by Greenwood Press.

In general, Dr. Henricks’ work has been focused on the organization of expressive culture in modern societies. In that context, he has expanded his long-standing interest in play and sport into such areas as art, religion, and popular culture. A current book, Play Reconsidered: Sociological Perspectives, is forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press. Another book project, on changes in the social organization of enjoyment during the last 100 years, also is in preparation. Consistent with these interests, Dr. Henricks is active in a number of professional associations, including The Association for the Study of Play, where he has served on the executive board for several years.

Within the Elon University community, Dr. Henricks has developed and served as advisor to the Faculty Resource Center, a library of books, journals, and human resources that assists faculty with their teaching and scholarship. In addition, he has since 1991 been the organizer of Numen/Lumen, a monthly discussion series focusing on issues of concern to the Elon faculty. More recently, he has chaired campus-wide committees re-developing structures related to faculty governance and administrative organization at Elon. After helping to establish a new sociology major at Elon in 1982, Dr. Henricks served as department chair from 1984 to 1991. From 1991 to 1997, he was dean of social sciences and associate dean of Elon College.

In 1990, Dr. Henricks received the University’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 1997, he was appointed Elon’s first J. Earl Danieley Professor. In fall 2003, he was named Distinguished University Professor.

Investiture remarks