World Traveler Returns Home

Fr. Hendrickson’s Worldwide Travels

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Well-Educated, Well-Traveled

All three Hendrickson brothers hold advanced degrees and have a penchant for travel. At one time, each lived on a different continent. Read more here.

Fr. Hendrickson:
10 Questions

From his favorite musical artist to what’s with the cowboy boots, learn more about Fr. Hendrickson here.

World Traveler Returns Home

by Rick Davis, BA’88

The night before she is to travel to Chicago and on to India, Creighton freshman Kate Albrecht glances at her phone and sees an earlier message she had missed. It’s now 9:30 p.m. “Too late to call?” she wonders.

Apprehensively, she dials. Any fears are quickly allayed. The person on the other end is glad to hear from her. Her connecting flight out of O’Hare International Airport has been delayed. “Do you want me to look for a different flight for you?” he asks.

Don’t worry, she replies. She and fellow Creighton student Ian Fallon decide to keep their travel plans.

It’s a brief conversation. Nothing spectacular. A simple show of concern; a willingness to help. But it means a lot to Albrecht. And it informs her — and us — about the character of the caller, the next president of Creighton University, the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., Ph.D.

“He’s just a really great human being,” Albrecht says.


Fr. Hendrickson’s travels have taken him to some 23 countries on nearly every continent. The latest trip to India this March, during spring break, included Albrecht and three other students from Creighton and Marquette.

On July 1, Fr. Hendrickson returns to campus as the 25th president of Creighton University — where he served three formative years as a philosophy professor in the early 2000s.

This also marks a return to his roots. For the Nebraska native, this is a homecoming.

Nebraska Roots

Fr. Hendrickson grew up in Fremont, Neb., about 33 miles northeast of Omaha and Creighton’s campus.

His father, Jerry, owned a hairstyling salon in Fremont and three hairstyling schools in Fremont, Grand Island and Omaha.

His parents, both from rural Lyons, Neb., were high school sweethearts. Jerry attended Dana College in Blair, Neb., on a football scholarship, and Mary enrolled at Duchesne College of the Sacred Heart in Omaha. Jerry would eventually change course and go to barber school — putting into motion a remarkable entrepreneurial career.

Jerry began work at a hair salon in Fremont in 1966, and a few years later, purchased the business. Then, in 1980, he bought Bahner College of Hairstyling in Fremont, retaining the name, and, in 1986, opened additional locations in Omaha and Grand Island. In 1987, Jerry joined with other local business leaders in purchasing First State Bank in Fremont. While he remains a director at the bank, Jerry has since sold the salon and schools, and now retired, he and Mary split time between Nebraska and California.

Mary and Jerry, high school homecoming queen and king, were married in September 1966. Their first child, Ryan, was born on Jan. 13, 1969. Daniel and Scott, identical twins, were born on Oct. 4, 1970. (Daniel is five minutes older.)

For the Hendricksons, education was an easy priority — especially Catholic education. But they never had to push their three sons too hard when it came to school.

“They always just showed a spirit of curiosity and interest,” Mary says.

Mary says all three boys were close growing up — and remain so. And while Daniel and Scott are identical twins, and admittedly share a special bond, Mary always tried to stress their individuality.

“In fact, when they were in kindergarten, they came home and said, ‘People call us twins,’” Mary recalls. “We didn’t use that term, so we had to explain that to them.”

Toward the end of high school at Mount Michael, a Benedictine school near Omaha, both Daniel and Scott expressed interest in pursuing a religious vocation, Mary says. At one time, Mary had six cousins in consecrated life, including the Rev. William Dendinger, former bishop of Grand Island.

Mary and Jerry encouraged the two to get their college degrees and see where the Holy Spirit leads them. Daniel followed in Ryan’s footsteps, enrolling at Marquette University; Scott enrolled at Saint Louis University

The Beginning of a Calling

Daniel arrived at Marquette’s campus in 1989, with an academic major familiar to many of today’s entering college students: undecided.

“I’m very empathetic and even encouraging of students who come to campus to begin their university studies in a place of uncertainty or confusion,” he says now. “In fact, I think that’s a good way to start studies in higher education.

“Jesuit higher education helps bring people to lots of good options, different disciplines and alternative ways of thinking.”

Daniel’s freshman-year roommate invited him to the Mass of the Holy Spirit, a traditional Mass on Jesuit campuses that celebrates the beginning of the academic year. The Mass captured Daniel’s imagination and spirit.

“I can remember to this day where I was sitting in the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee,” Fr. Hendrickson recalls. “I remember a lone voice chanting the Veni Sancte Spiritus. I recall plumes of smoke coming out of incense bowls as they were processed toward the altar. I remember the banners.

“But most of all, I remember the train of Jesuits that streamed into the Gesu. And something of their procession, their walk toward the altar, their company spirit, was alluring. I had an inkling that I wanted to be a part of that group. But I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know how genuine that desire was at the time.”

He graduated from Marquette in 1993 with a double major in psychology and theology. He then returned to Mount Michael with four high school classmates, including his brother Scott, as a volunteer teacher. He also took the time to reflect.

“I used the year out at Mount Michael to intensify my discernment, to look more seriously at the question of being a Jesuit.”

In 1994, Daniel Hendrickson entered the Society of Jesus.

The Journey Begins

Fr. Hendrickson says completing the 30-day retreat in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius was his most formative experience at the Jesuit novitiate in St. Paul, Minn. But the pilgrimage was “one of the best.”

The novitiate is the first stage in Jesuit formation; it’s a two-year period of prayer, work and study. With the 30-day pilgrimage, Jesuit novices are given $35 and a one-way bus ticket; they carry clothes and other essentials in a backpack.

“It cultivates a sense of dependence, the ability to ask others for help and assistance,” Fr. Hendrickson says. “You also depend on God and recognize that God is active in our lives in interesting ways.”

While other novices had destinations preplanned, Fr. Hendrickson says he had no idea where he wanted to go. A Jesuit at the novitiate suggested he go out and bring back some good stories.

“And I did that in abundance,” he says. He crisscrossed the country, from San Francisco to Laramie, Wyo., to Bardstown, Ky. He learned how to ride a motorcycle in Tempe, Ariz., and, after some lessons and with a spirit of determination, traveled to the Grand Canyon and parts of New Mexico on a Harley-Davidson.

“There’s something more immersive in that form of transportation. I think it has a lot to do with enjoying the amplified experience of being in nature and being out on the road and being out in the weather.”

His dad would later purchase a couple of Harleys and the two would go on several trips together. “Those were very special,” Jerry says. (He has since sold the bikes, and Fr. Hendrickson says he hasn’t ridden since 2005.)

Fr. Hendrickson would later develop a set of retreat talks titled “The Motorcycle Sermons: Narratives and Their Ignatian Insights.” The Ignatian-themed sermons use storytelling to highlight moments of grace, growth and awareness.

When the pilgrimage was complete, Fr. Hendrickson felt a sense of accomplishment. “It instilled a sense of confidence for dwelling in uncertainty, and coming through that in a pretty remarkable way.”

His final novice experience also shaped him profoundly — a roughly six-month stay at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to teach at Red Cloud Indian School and drive the school bus. He admits it was a difficult experience, especially at first.

“It was an immersion in everything that is so terrible about poverty and human struggle. And yet it was also the experience of beauty.

“The take-away for me was to continually open my life and my heart to difference and to better understanding the struggles of people’s lives. And not to try to come up with easy solutions.”

Jesse Renteria, BA’03, grew up on the reservation and had Fr. Hendrickson as a teacher, both at Red Cloud and later at Creighton. “He has a very approachable style,” says Renteria, who now works in Washington, D.C., on Native American issues. “He’s dynamic; he has a lot of energy. And he’s also very authentic. He was always there to help you in any way, shape or form.”

The Overseas Experience  

Fr. Hendrickson’s first international trip focusing on service and reflection came in 1999. He was a Jesuit scholastic, studying graduate philosophy at Fordham University, when he was chosen to lead a group of undergraduates to India.

They lived in a Muslim ghetto in the city of Kolkata, and would rise early every morning to walk to the motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation established by Mother Teresa.

There, volunteers from around the world would be dispatched to sites across the city. Fr. Hendrickson chose the same site every day — the Nirmal Hriday, a hospice for the sick, destitute and the dying established by Mother Teresa in 1952.

The volunteers would bathe the patrons. “They would quite literally pass through our arms.” They would also wash the soiled linens; serve lunch, assisting those who couldn’t feed themselves; and sit with the patrons — sometimes to talk, but mostly to simply be present.

“I, myself, was very moved by the experience. It showed me the importance of service engagement, of encountering the unfamiliar, of learning about where we come from, of sweat-equity and service, but most importantly about opportunities for relationships.

“Both Jesuit Superiors General (Peter Hans) Kolvenbach and (Adolfo) Nicolás have called Jesuit higher education to more genuine relationships with people and places of service, locally and globally.”

Another profound international experience came in 2006, when Fr. Hendrickson, newly ordained in a ceremony at St. John’s Church, traveled to the East African nation of Tanzania. He was originally assigned to work in a parish in Dar es Salaam. But after learning of his interest in philosophy and his teaching experience at Creighton, the East African Jesuits asked Fr. Hendrickson’s local provincial to change his assignment. Subsequently, he was placed back in the classroom, teaching seminary students at what is now Jordan University College in Morogoro.

“I loved it,” Fr. Hendrickson says. “I loved working with the students, who were from all over sub-Saharan Africa.”

The students also loved him, especially the way he engaged them — stepping down from the podium and walking among them in the lecture hall. They named him a professor of the year.

“The students felt very close to him,” says the Rev. Ferdinand Lukoa, SDS, who was a student of his in Tanzania and is now a mission director for the Salvatorians in Milwaukee. “He was so friendly and loving, and everybody was able to approach him.”

The Teacher

Before he was a Creighton teacher, Fr. Hendrickson was a Creighton student, studying in the Jesuit Humanities Program in 1996-97. Bette Evans, Ph.D., a longtime political science professor at Creighton who retired in 2009, remembers having Daniel in her class.

“He and a fellow Jesuit scholastic took my course on philosophy of law,” remembers Evans. “He was one of the best students I ever had. And since I taught more than a generation of very bright students, that is saying a lot. Many good students understood ethical issues at the heart of law, but few ‘got it’ like Fr. Hendrickson.”

Fr. Hendrickson returned to Creighton to teach philosophy from 2000 to 2003.  

Joe Abdo, BA’04, says Fr. Hendrickson’s philosophy classes were always “jam packed,” adding that some of his lectures “are still stuck in my head.” When Abdo applied to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after graduation, Fr. Hendrickson encouraged him to consider teaching at Red Cloud. Abdo took the advice, and he’s glad he did. “That was one of the greatest, most challenging years of my life,” he says. “I also met my future wife while working there.” Fr. Hendrickson married them in 2007. Says Abdo, “He had a profound impact on my life.”

Laura (Hazuka) Plasencia, BSN’04, who traveled with Fr. Hendrickson and a group of Creighton students for a semester in the Dominican Republic in 2002, says the Jesuit priest was fun. “He was always up for an adventure,” Plasencia says. “He was actually one of my first patients. He needed an allergy shot while we were in the DR, so he let me give him his injections.” She says he also challenged students to wrestle with tough questions and to find God in all things.

“Teaching at Creighton was rewarding for many reasons,” Fr. Hendrickson says. “The concerns of philosophy take us deeply into ourselves, and they also propel us broadly around, allowing us to question local, global and cosmic realities.”

The Priest

Maureen Beckman met Daniel in 2002 while he was studying at the Jesuit School of Theology (JST) in Berkeley, Calif. Beckman was director of philanthropy at JST and a member of the parish council at St. Agnes, a socioeconomic and culturally diverse Jesuit parish in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Daniel volunteered to serve at the parish, where he would eventually direct an intense initiation program for new Catholics and run a monthly book club.

“He’s very charismatic, very outgoing,” Beckman recalls. “The people just loved him; he’s just a very caring person.”

When Daniel was ordained a priest at Creighton in 2006, some 17 people from the parish made the trip to Omaha — some older parishioners traveling by train because they didn’t like to fly.

“People haven’t forgotten him, and it’s been several years now,” Beckman says. “He made an effort to reach out to the people. He connected with them in a way that I haven’t really seen as much since.”

On balancing his dual roles of president and priest, Fr. Hendrickson says, “I hope to be a contemplative in action … a practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, which is one of prayerful awareness and response. As a priest, I can also point to God in a special way, through the sacraments, as a homilist, in my actions and in recognizing the actions of others.”

Beckman has no doubt he’ll be successful. “What I think is great about Daniel is he’s a good listener. He listens, but he’s got a really good sense of getting to the point of things. He’s got this innate sense of what can be done. It’s a gift.”

The Administrator

In 2012, Fr. Hendrickson returned to his alma mater, Marquette University, as associate vice president in the Office of the Executive Vice President — working closely with the president, provost and academic deans on a myriad of issues. Later, he became an associate provost for academic initiatives. While working full time as a senior administrator, he also taught a philosophy of education class most semesters and served as co-director of the Burke service and leadership scholarship program.

The scholarship program requires recipients to engage in 300 hours of community service per academic year, write frequent reflections and complete a senior capstone presentation. Scholars also attend ongoing integration seminars with Fr. Hendrickson.

Jordan Smith, a junior biomedical engineering student at Marquette, is one such scholar. He has a special perspective on Creighton’s new president, having lived next door to him this year in university housing.

“He’s a great guy,” Smith says. “He’s the type of guy who will invite you over. I just sit down on his couch and we talk. We talk about life.” He adds: “I would tell students that they can expect a president who really cares about them and their experience, who’s not afraid to get to know them.”

Tina Rende, a junior at Marquette, is also a Burke scholar, and she was a regular at Fr. Hendrickson’s Tuesday night Masses at St. Joan of Arc Chapel, concelebrated with the Rev. Nicky Santos, S.J.

“Those two are kind of the dynamic duo,” Rende says. “The chapel is absolutely packed. They have this way of taking the word of God and making it very applicable to our college-age struggle.”

Stephanie Quade, Ph.D., dean of students at Marquette, has worked with Fr. Hendrickson as co-director of the Burke scholars program. “Daniel’s been a good reflection of the contemporary Society of Jesus,” she says, “and I think he’s gotten students to understand what it means to be a student at a Jesuit university.”

Fr. Hendrickson says his service on the boards of Boston College, Creighton and Xavier has given him insights into the issues and complexities of Jesuit higher education.


Now his sights are set on Creighton.

“I know I’m joining a campus with great faculty, great staff and a great leadership team in place,” Fr. Hendrickson says. “So I’m excited to jump in and start working with people here.”

Mary and Jerry Hendrickson are also excited. Says Mary, “We’re thrilled he’s coming home!”