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Lou and Mary Henson to receive NMSU’s Presidential Medallion award

New Mexico State University will award the 2018 Presidential Medallion to Lou and Mary Henson during the spring convocation ceremony Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Atkinson Recital Hall.


A man and a woman.
Lou and Mary Henson will be honored with New Mexico State University’s Presidential Medallion Jan. 16. (Courtesy photo)

The award recognizes outstanding service given to the university beyond an individual’s time as an employee.

“Lou and Mary Henson have done so much for our university and so much for our community,” NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said. “In addition to his outstanding career, Coach Henson has helped with the Boys and Girls Club and has always been willing to help with other community efforts. Mary Henson played a key role in the NMSU Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign. These two are outstanding members of our community and two of the most prominent individuals to ever walk our campus.”

Lou Henson, an NMSU alumni, is noted for his 779 career basketball victories, making him one of the most successful coaches in Division I history. During his career, which spanned more than four decades, he led two programs to the NCAA Final Four – NMSU in 1970 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989. His teams have made 19 NCAA appearances and four NIT appearances.

He is also one of only four NCAA coaches to have amassed at least 200 total wins at two institutions. Both NMSU and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have honored the coach by naming their basketball arena hardwood floors “Lou Henson Court.”

Henson was selected as a member of the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2005, Lou and Mary were awarded honorary doctorates from NMSU.

Mary Henson first met her husband during his student days at New Mexico State in the 1950s. Throughout their more than 60-year marriage, she has been his strongest supporter and cheerleader, experiencing the NCAA tournaments and Final Four appearances with him, often cheering from the sidelines with their children or grandchildren in tow.

Mary always involved herself in her husband's career, including hosting pre-game receptions for alumni, boosters or new recruits, while engaging in various community activities.

While in Las Cruces, she served as an active board member for the NMSU President’s Associates, helping to raise money for student scholarships. One of her philanthropic efforts was to help complete projects for NMSU’s Children’s Village.

The Hensons, as a team, have been among NMSU's most active supporters on and off the court. Their commitment to excellence in academics and athletics was demonstrated with the establishment of the Lou and Mary Henson Endowed Scholarship in honor of their late son, Lou Jr. The fund is designed to support deserving student-athletes at NMSU.

Coach Henson earned his bachelor's degree in secondary education and his master's in education administration, both from NMSU. He lettered in basketball for the New Mexico A&M Aggies from 1953-1955.

Prior to coaching at the college level, Henson coached at Las Cruces High School where he led his varsity teams to state championships in 1959, 1960 and 1961.

After four years at Hardin-Simmons University, Henson returned to his alma mater in 1966 to coach the Aggies for nine seasons. In 1975 he left New Mexico for the Illinois position, which he held until 1996.

In 1997, Henson returned to NMSU as interim head coach. He wanted to donate his time, but was told that state law didn’t allow him to coach for free. He finally accepted a nominal salary of $1 per month. After a successful season, he became the permanent coach until the 2004-2005 season when he retired.

The couple will be unable to attend the convocation ceremony due to Lou’s medical appointments out of state.