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October 2010  |  Return to issue home

In Memoriam: Randolph 'Ran' Hennes

Ran Hennes
Ran Hennes

Randolph “Ran” Hennes passed away on Sept. 13, at age 79, from lymphoma complications. Ran was born Nov. 17, 1930, in Seattle, grew up on Magnolia and attended Queen Anne High School, class of 1948. He attended the University of Washington on an NROTC scholarship, graduating with a B.A. in 1952 and receiving his ensign's commission. After three years in the Navy, including service in the Pacific during the Korean War, he returned to the University and completed his Ph.D. in history. Ran taught at Wayne State University in Detroit before returning to the University of Washington in 1971, beginning a 40-year career during which he served as associate director in the UW Honors Program and taught a variety of courses in military history.

For many years he advised incoming students and their families, including students in the athletic department, keeping them on track academically and helping them navigate the university system. Generations of Honors students and student-athletes have benefitted from Ran's assistance. Ran had four main interests: his four children, his war stories from all centuries, his students, and his Huskies. He was a huge fan and supporter of Husky football, basketball and crew, and kept in touch with many of his former students, now scattered across the U.S.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the Ran Hennes Honors Scholarship. Make an online gift or mail your gift to the Ran Hennes Honors Scholarship, University of Washington Foundation, Box 359505, Seattle, WA 98195.

Ran’s Advice for Life

"I met Ran when I was 17. It's not an exaggeration to say that he's the reason I moved to Seattle to attend the UW and join the Honors Program, earning a minor in history (primarily military, of course) along the way. I can trace my major life events to Ran: working for the Honors Program, meeting my husband and subsequently having my daughter, and choosing my career in higher education.  Throughout it all he has been my champion, my confidante and my friend.  I moved from Seattle eight years ago but Ran continued to be one of my closest friends. When I was homesick in Manhattan he would keep me company while I walked back to my scuzzy apartment (fretting that I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings) and when I was driving home at night after my graduate classes at the University of Maryland we would figure out my research agenda and he would worry that I should be paying attention to the road rather than talking to him (I did buy a hands free earpiece to set his mind at ease). I can count on one finger the number of times he didn't pick up the phone when I called—and that was the time I forgot his teaching schedule. One of my life's joys was making him laugh—not that it was so hard, but when he got going it was just such a treat to hear. My world has a little hole without Ran, but my life is so much richer thanks to him."
Jeanne Contardo, Honors alumna, 02

"At the end of college I went to Ran for advice. My girlfriend and I were deciding whether to go to grad school together or to go to better grad schools on opposite sides of the country separately.  I asked him, ‘Ran, what do you think about love versus ambition?’ He thought for a minute, and then said, ‘Well, I'm old and sentimental. But then, when I was young I was young and sentimental...’  We took his advice, and six years later we're married and expecting our first child."
Nicolas Addington, Honors alumnus, ’04

"A short conversation with Ran could completely change your day, or your life. Ran was the most generous of listeners. His ear was always open to anyone who needed one. Whether it was the first time you met him, or after you'd known him for years, seeing and talking with Ran would always be comforting in a way that only happens when you are in the company of someone truly kind and interested in talking with you. He gave me some of the most valuable advice I've received, and told me some of the best stories I've heard. I will treasure our many, many chats. He was one of the best persons I knew, and will likely ever know. I miss him greatly."
John Pyles, Honors alumnus, ’02

Ran, the Advocate for Students

"Ran and I met by chance during my first quarter at the University of Washington when I wandered into his office looking for someone else. We struck up a conversation about the day’s news and other miscellany and eventually he asked me if I was there for an advising appointment. When he discovered that I wandered in to his office by accident, he invited me to join the Honors Program. The gift of this invitation was immeasurable. Even greater was the gift of witnessing his boundless kindness and generosity towards people in even the smallest and most passing interactions. The greatest teachers are those who teach us how to live our lives. Ran taught me that the world can use all the kindness it can get, and that taking a few minutes to talk with someone can change their lives in ways beyond immediate imagination. I will miss him greatly."
Raz Barnea, Honors alumnus, ’05

"Ran Hennes was one of my favorite people at the UW when I was an undergraduate honors student there. He put the 'gentle' in gentleman; he knew us as individuals; he kept tabs on us as we graduated and headed into the world. Ran was dedicated to the ideals and success of Honors, and he was still gently promoting and supporting it when my wife, Marilyn, and I visited with him upon the arrival into the program of our daughter, Madeleine, in 2006. It is a wonderful program, and all of us who have received its benefits, or will in the future, will forever be in Ran's debt."
The Honorable Rob McKenna, Honors alumnus, ’85

"Since hearing that Ran died, I've been in daily contact with friends from the Honors community, remembering Ran and what he brought to our lives. My first memory of Ran is from when I arrived at UW as a new freshman. I had been drawn to the UW in large part because of the Honors Program, but somewhere between Morocco and Seattle, my application was lost. I met with Ran supposedly to discuss my options and learn how to apply to join as a sophomore. He was happy to talk with me, but was utterly unconcerned with the logistics that I had expected to discuss. Our conversation was delightful and meandering, traveling freely through time, space and subject. He seemed sincerely curious about my life experiences and interests and opinions, and was much more interested in knowing how I had made the clothes I was wearing than in knowing what my high school GPA was. As our conversation reached a close, he said simply, 'I think you belong here. I'll sign you up.' I hope he knew what a gift that belonging was. For those four years of college, and the seven years since, I truly belonged to a second family of students and advisers, Ran included. Other friends from that time have similar memories of Ran—we share a feeling that he saw and understood us as whole people, and knowing us, welcomed us. He will be deeply missed by those of us in the community he helped to create and bring together."
Cait Rippey, Honors alumna, ’03

"Ran always seemed larger than life itself; his looming physical presence and inquisitive mind were always on the move, taking him on some new assignment or mission. Fortunately for me one of those missions involved his voluntary service on the University’s undergraduate admissions committee. Before the University began its present admissions process, decisions were based solely on grades and test scores, omitting consideration of special circumstances. Sometimes admissions counselors encouraged applicants to petition and explain these circumstances, but more often applicants initiated petitions themselves. The admissions committee reviewed these petitions to determine final admissibility. Committee members spent countless hours in preparation for each meeting and were expected to come to the meeting with a yea or nay position on each applicant.  Ran was always prepared for these meetings, bringing special knowledge and insight gleaned from close scrutiny of transcripts and applicant supplied narrative. And, he was always ready to ‘go to the mat’ to support his determination. 

Sometimes, on rare occasions, he was unable to convince the committee to go along with his assessment and was astonished at how those with contrary opinions could be so wrong. Shaking his head in unbelief he would grudgingly move on to the next petition, visibly perplexed by their benighted decision. He took his work seriously and encouraged everyone else to do the same. Ran also never said ‘no’ when asked to serve on various scholarship selection committees, although such activities frequently required taking preparatory work home at night and often staying late on the day of the meeting. He was always ready to serve the University he loved so deeply. Those of us who knew him well, will not forget his indomitable spirit and the many contributions he made to the university community. Nor will I forget his friendship and the many football games we attended, sitting side by side, sharing the emotional highs and lows that come from following the Huskies.  Thanks for everything, Ran."
Tim Washburn, assistant vice president for Enrollment Services, retired

Ran, the Colleague, Friend and UW Citizen

"I joined forces with Ran in 1983 when I stepped in to direct the Honors Program while Jack Haney was on leave. I had taught for Honors before then but knew nothing of the ins and outs of running the Program. I soon realized that I depended on Ran at every step. He was the ideal person to work with. In theory I was his boss, the tough guy who made the daring and tough decisions. In fact Ran made just about all of them and had the great virtue of making me think I had. I think he even had to make me aware when a decision had to be made. I've worked on many a committee here where I met fellow faculty and staff that I liked; but, once the work was done and I had left the group, I often seldom or never saw them again. Ran was somebody I stuck with. He was a sensitive and very wise man. He loved conversation and I loved conversing with him. Our backgrounds were diverse enough that we never seemed to exhaust topics of interest He was a fixture here both in the classroom and as an adviser. He was one of the essential gears that made the UW go and at the same time spread goodwill as he went. It is an understatement to say that I will miss him."
Professor Emeritus Larry Bliquez, classics, Honors director

"Ran was what most of us would like to be--always kind, always cheerful, always supportive.  Whenever I was frustrated by some bureaucratic quirk, his institutional memory would recall some other even more absurd bureaucratic process from the past whether it was here at the UW or some odd episode from his storehouse of knowledge about military history. That's what I'll miss most—the sound of our laughter together at the end of one of his stories. He told stories when we needed a storyteller."
Professor Shawn Wong, English, Honors director 2003-06

"I distinctly remember meeting Ran for the first time at an Honors function during my first year of college and being impressed by his knowledge and gravitas. In the succeeding years this first impression only deepened, and I for one look to his example as a model of the engaged, caring scholar. One rarely meets a man like Ran; I, like many others whose lives he touched however briefly, shall greatly miss him."
Grant Mandarino, Honors alumnus, ’04, ’09

"Ran was one of a kind, a rare and precious resource for students, the University and our whole community. He had such a vibrant, inquisitive mind and he was always, always upbeat and enthused about one thing or another. It was a joy just to run into him on campus. The energy was boundless and infectious."
Norm G. Arkans, ’73, ’75, associate vice president of UW External Relations

"During the six years I directed the Honors Program I got to know and respect Ran Hennes and to value our friendship. It is certain that I could not have done the job without him there to correct my mistakes and curb my enthusiasms. I think that his naval background ensured his respect for decisions of the ‘captain’ but as ‘first officer’ he knew how to quietly make the necessary course corrections. I cherish memories of many, many long conversations about almost everything, our pet aversions excepted: big-time college football for me, Noam Chomsky for him. During his long service to Honors successive directors came and went. He was the flywheel (as he would say) and the heart of the program, the continuity that saw it through challenging times before attaining the present premises and thriving activity. Without him I doubt that Honors would be here today. His dedication to students of all abilities was reflected in the numbers who showed up at his open door well after graduation. His dedication and his humility are examples to us all."
Professor Emeritus John Edwards, biology, Honors director 1982-87

"Ran Hennes was a true University citizen. He was a man of great integrity, humor and commitment to his students and the University. Honors students, student athletes, history majors, even staff and faculty, we all learned from Ran. Our truly great teachers and mentors live with us long after their formal work is done. Ran's legacy will live through the active minds and lives of thousands of students staff and faculty who have had the honor of being in his presence. Indeed, Ran will be greatly missed and long remembered."
Ed Taylor, ’93, vice provost and dean, Undergraduate Academic Affairs

"I was Ran's nominal ‘boss’ as director of the Honors Program for seven wonderful years.  I got to know him well. For me, Ran was the UW. He had been here longer than anyone else I knew. He could find his way into little corners of the campus, little nooks of the administration, and little nuggets of our history that nobody else knew about, and his guidance into these obscure pathways was always useful and sometimes enlightening. He had a real love of working with students: they would come in and ask hard questions, or want to talk about their lives, or just to chat, and he would spend hours.  He and I used to spend hours, too, talking about whatever, because he was so interested in, and his thoughts were so interesting on, so many things. I'm not much of a Husky fan, and I have my doubts about major-college athletics in general, and Ran knew this. But somehow we could even talk football, not just yards and blocks and interceptions, but how it worked from the inside, how the institution managed the athletic monster that sometimes seemed to be managing it.  I have been to one Husky game in my 36 years, and that was when Ran had an extra ticket.  And of course when we got into WWII history, he was really in his element. Military history was rather sniffed at by the intellectual and social historians of the late 20th century, but I could always imagine that taking military history from Ran would be not only fun, but insightful. And working with him to administer the program was a delight. He had such good sense. For me, my years at Honors were the best time of my career at the UW, and a large part of that was due to Ran Hennes."
Professor Stevan Harrel, anthropology, Honors director 1987-94

October 2010  |  Return to issue home

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