College of Science & Engineering Alumni Newsletter

Fall 1998

In Memoriam: Retired Dean of Sciences Jack Hensill

John S. Hensill, who oversaw the rapid growth of the School of Natural Sciences at San Francisco State University in the early 1970s, died February 13, 1998 in San Francisco at the age of  89.

Dean of the School of Natural Sciences (now the College of Science and Engineering) from 1969 until his retirement in 1975, John (Jack) Hensill was also for many years a member of the board of trustees of the California Academy of Sciences.

He joined the San Francisco State University biology faculty in 1947 and spent his entire career at the university, first as a professor, then as chairman of the department and finally as dean of the School of Natural Sciences. His tenure as dean saw the completion of the physical science and life science buildings, now known as Thornton Hall and Hensill Hall, respectively. He considered the naming of Hensill Hall, after his retirement, his greatest honor and always gave it a salute when he passed.

James Kelley, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, recalls Hensill’s leadership in the early 1970s:  “At a pivotal time, Jack led the School to a higher level, with new resources, a stronger faculty and a greater interaction with the California Academy of Sciences.”

As a professor, he co-wrote a text, “Biology of Man,” taught human biology, and led a popular marine and invertebrate biology course, complete with field trips up and down the coast.

Hensill received his bachelor’s degree in biology from San Jose State University, his master’s degree from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. from Stanford, in 1949. He taught at Bay Area high schools while attending college.

Raised on a fruit ranch in the Santa Clara Valley, he grew fruit throughout his life, including the past 40 years in Redwood City. As a resident there, he helped organize and oversaw the Redwood City Farmers Market.

He is survived by his wife Betty, his two sons from a previous marriage, E. Ward Hensill of Bodega and John Thomas Hensill of Novato, an older brother George Hensill of Berkeley, a grandson, John Gardner Hensill of Kent, Washington, and four nieces.  Contributions in his memory can be made to the Hensill Endowment and Scholarship Fund, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, or to the Sempervirens Fund, P.O. Drawer 8-E, Los Altos, CA 94023.

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Updated by Lannie Nguyen-Tang on August 3rd, 2000