Edward L. Henry

Edward L. Henry, 1921-2010

Edward L. Henry, professor and vice-president at St. John’s University and mayor of St. Cloud from 1964 to 1971, also served as president of St Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana; St Michael’s College, Winooski, Vermont; Marian College, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; and Belmont Abbey, Belmont, North Carolina.  Ed was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1921 and graduated from nearby St. John’s University, Collegeville. He attended graduate school at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

During World War II Ed served as a naval officer on a destroyer escort in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Pacific. He returned to St. John’s as a professor of political science for 19 years, and also served as its Vice President for Institutional Development. He was on the St. Cloud School Board and served two terms as mayor of St. Cloud.

Ed’s passions were teaching, public service and his family. He had a delightful sense of humor and a great love for the outdoors, especially the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, travel, and bridge.

Many of Ed’s papers, addresses, published articles, monographs, notes, letters and other items of interest were donated to the St. John’s University Archives and are available to the general public by appointment. Materials related to his term as Mayor of St. Cloud (1964-1971) are archived at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

A more extensive biography, below, includes links to some of the documents and photographs in the Edward L. Henry Collection in the SJU Archives. See the Edward L. Henry Collection website to access a complete inventory (Finding Aid) as well as the selected documents and photos that are available online.


Edward Leroy Henry lived 89 years, raised a family of nine with his wife Betty (Reiten), and had a wide-ranging professional career, serving as mayor in his hometown, as an innovative developer of public service organizations and as president of four Catholic colleges around the country.

Ed was born to John and Mary (Kraker) Henry in St. Cloud, Minnesota on March 31st, 1921, the third of five children. His father, John Achilles Henry, came from Benton County, where Edʼs grandfather, John B. Henry, and grandmother, Mary (Parent) Henry, were prominent turn-of-the-century farmers, owning as many as 700 acres and hundreds of cattle and horses. Included in the archive is extensive family tree research in book form, completed by a relative of Edʼs in the 1980s.

Edʼs father moved to Albany and was elected Representative to the Minnesota House in 1912. While in Albany, he courted Rosemary Kraker, one of 13 children born to prominent Melrose merchant Joseph A. Kraker and his wife, Maria Bohmer, the adopted daughter of a frontier blacksmith.

John and Rosemary married, moved to St. Cloud, and eventually opened Henry Drug, a pharmacy on St. Germain Street. John Henry served on the Board of Directors to several local banks, volunteered at a variety of civic organizations, and in 1934 became Postmaster of St. Cloud, a patronage appointment of Franklin Roosevelt for service to the Democratic Party of Stearns County.

In addition to Edward, the couple had four other children: Mary Louise (1917), John Jr. (1919), Fr. Charles, (nee William, 1924) and Robert (1926).

Ed attended St. Maryʼs Parochial school in St. Cloud, a short walk from his family home, through the 8th grade. Rites of passage included First Communion and First Confession, a ten-cent-an-hour stint at a pickle factory, and the purchase of a Chevrolet Coupe at age 14 — an assist to Edʼs interest in picnics, dating and fishing holes. The collection includes several original school projects from this era.

Ed Henry attended St. Cloud’s Cathedral High School (CHS) in 1936, and he excelled academically while finding time for track, football, journalism, debate and student government. The collection features original newspaper clippings Ed collected in a scrapbook tracking Cathedral football and debate of this era, and the issues of a school publication, Chimes, which chronicles life at CHS from 1936-1939.

In Fall 1939, Ed matriculated at St. John’s University in nearby Collegeville. This began a long association with the Benedictine-founded institution, an extremely fruitful one for both parties. It was here Ed honed skills at debate, established a life-long devotion to liberal education, developed a keen interest in public service, grew himself as a writer, came to maturity as professor and administrator, and, best of all, met a College of St. Benedict student, Elizabeth Anne (Betty) Reiten, on a blind date in 1943.

Betty Reiten was the 1939 Valedictorian of tiny Petersburg High School, on the Dakota prairie. She was the eldest of eight children in a family of modest means headed by Nelson Anton Reiten, a prize-turkey farmer and rural mail carrier. Nelson had been a World War I pilot-trainee and frontier hunter in Montana before courting and marrying a rural teacher, Lillian Andrews, in nearby Michigan, North Dakota.

Like many, the Reitens grew up without access to electricity or water. They made do growing poultry and vegetables at a summer farm, taking in dust storms and grasshoppers, prizing Saturday bath night as much as Sunday church service. Betty honed practical arts-children, gardening, cooking-but also sublime ones: philosophy, literature and performance.

Their marital union was delayed by Ed’s service as a Supply Lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War II. In 1943, Ed enrolled in Officer Training School, and was accepted at Harvard University for the study of Business Administration; his transcript is in the collection. By 1944, he was stationed on the U.S.S. Krechmer, a destroyer escort which saw action in both Atlantic and Pacific theaters.

As a supply officer, Edʼs work included going to port in search of food and supplies from local merchants. Thus, he witnessed first hand the good, bad and ugly of newly liberated Italy, as well as the evacuation of Bataan Death March survivors from the island enclave of Formosa (now Taiwan). His accounts, written on the backs of used Navy Supply paper, constitute a rare personal and journalistic glimpse into an assortment of scenes from World War II. (See World War II Documents and Essays.) He strung news reports for both AP and UPI. Also in the collection are a series of original photographs and negatives taken with his own camera, along with other Navy realia relating to his duties as the Kretchmer Supply Officer.

Returning to St. Cloud after discharge in 1946, Ed followed his interest in journalism by purchasing an interest in the St. Cloud Statesman and becoming a lead writer. The venture was short-lived, and in 1947 Ed left Minnesota to pursue graduate work at the University of Chicago. He did not, however, let go of his affection — or the address – of Betty Anne Reiten, now a secondary English instructor in Melrose.

The collected letters between Edward Henry and Betty Reiten from the period 1945-47, just prior to marriage, are an intriguing glimpse into hopes, fears, dreams and desires of two idealistic, intellectual and energetic protagonists in what was to become known as the Baby-Boom Generation. Their letters, hand-typed by Ed and hand-written by Betty, were saved separately by Edward and Betty for over 60 years. (Their availability for scholars is at the discretion of the collection archivist, in consultation with the Henry Family.)

Edward L. Henry and Elizabeth Reiten were united in marriage on September 10th, 1947 at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s Catholic Church in Michigan, North Dakota, witnessed by dozens of friends and relatives. Edʼs brother John served as best man; Margaret Reiten, Betty’s younger sister, was bridesmaid. A variety of photographs and their Mass Program survive in the collection.

Ed was enrolled in a Master of Philosophy Program at the University of Chicago, and the couple settled in an apartment in downtown Chicago. He completed his M.A. in 1948, and, building on the Business Administration courses he took at Harvard in 1943-44, he added an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago that same year. With continuing graduate work in later years and successful defense of his thesis, Ed earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1955. The collection houses Edʼs M.A. thesis, Harold Knutson and the Sixth Congressional District of Minnesota: A Study of Political Techniques (1948), and his Ph.D. thesis, A Politico-Administrative Appraisal of Government Organization for Monetary Policy Formation (1955), both in their original bound, hand-typed edition.

In 1948, Ed Henry received his first appointment at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, where he would teach Economics and Political Science through 1954. For the last two years, he served as an Assistant to the President and also as Political Science Department Chair. During this time, Ed and Betty produced four children: Anne (in Chicago, 1948), Paula (1949), Steven (1951), and Susanna (1952).

In 1955, the Henry Family moved back to St. Cloud, bought a station wagon and began a 17-year tenure in Edʼs hometown. It began with Ed’s professorship at St. John’s University, where he chaired the nascent Political Science Department.

Responsibilities grew quickly for the 34 year old St. John’s Alumni:

Ed also volunteered widely with organizations in and around the community of St. Cloud, including the YMCA, Catholic Charities, St. Peterʼs Parish School, United Way, Retarded Day Care Center, and Parent Assisted Childhood Program. In addition, Dr. Henry, as he was widely known, published extensively during these years, delivered a series of public addresses, and edited two books: Metropolis (1967), and Micropolis in Transition (1971).

Ed and Betty also contributed generously to the baby boom by delivering five more children while living in St. Cloud: Michael (1954), Mary Beth (1956), Rebecca (1958), Peter (1960) and John (1963), for a total of nine.

In 1972, after a national search process, Ed was offered the presidency of St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. St. Maryʼs had just fallen out of an attempted merger with sister-school, Notre Dame, and sought to re-establish its institutional identity and fundraising base. Edʼs work there lasted until 1974. The collection features a series of newspaper clippings, letters and institutional realia from that tenure.

From 1974 to 1976, Ed returned to St. John’s, from which he had been granted a leave of absence, and continued teaching, directing and volunteering, adding Vice President for Institutional Development to his portfolio.

In 1976, with three children still at home, Ed chose to relocate to Vermont, where he was offered the presidency of St. Michael’s College at Winooski. The Catholic liberal arts college, adjacent to Burlington, featured 1200 students, major theatre and arts performance centers and a myriad of challenges with facilities, fundraising and recruitment.

For nine years, Ed Henry worked at St. Michael’s turning around the climate, culture and campus. This was a singular opportunity, bringing together his experience in institutional planning, development, and fundraising. While in Vermont he was, as always, extremely active in civic and volunteer organizations and as a writer and speaker. The collection contains a large binder of materials, news clippings, articles, editorials and personal notes from Edʼs nine years as President of St. Michael’s.

The collection includes Ed’s lengthy 1984 Vita. He retired in 1986, but only on paper. He was to receive two more appointments as interim President at small Catholic liberal arts colleges: Marian College in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (1986-89) and Belmont Abbey in North Carolina (1989-90).

In 2007, an alumni gift to St. John’s University from Dan Whalen (SJU class of 1970 and its interim president in 2008-09) established the Edward L. Henry Professorship, recognizing Ed’s many years of leadership in Catholic education, public service and academia.

Edward L. Henryʼs life and professional work are well-represented by the Collection and testify to the active intellectual life Ed pursued and worked hard to create for young people across the United States. He was deeply immersed in the traditions of Western political philosophy as well as the structure of United States constitutional government. His faith in the Catholic Church and belief in the liberating power of free inquiry are hallmarks of his life’s work.