D. Wyatt Henderson ’98 and Linda Henderson
Wall College icons: Former board of trustees chairman D. Wyatt Henderson reminisces with his mentor, retired accounting professor Linda Henderson.
On May 20, 2017, at Springs Brooks Stadium, outgoing board of trustees chairman D. Wyatt Henderson threw out the first pitch at the reigning national champions’ last home game of the season. One of the people he specially invited to share the moment with him and his family was retired CCU professor Linda Henderson. Though they’re not related, the two Hendersons share a bond that is in many ways like family.
Twenty-one years ago, in the summer of 1996, Wyatt Henderson walked into his first accounting class at Coastal Carolina University. “I remember that he sat in the top row, center left, of Room 322, one of the tiered classrooms in the Wall Building,” says Linda Henderson. The class was Accounting 201, the introductory course she calls “baby accounting.” She remembers being immediately impressed by Wyatt’s confidence and talent—and his sense of humor.
Born in Greer, S.C., Wyatt was a nontraditional student who had a year of college under his belt when he began at CCU. He had started a family and was eager to complete his education, but he hadn’t decided on a major. After he took another accounting class in the second summer session, Linda gave him some advice.
“She convinced me that I should major in accounting,” he recalls. “She said she would help me all she could. She already had a full advising load but said she would take me on.”
He took her advice and graduated in two years. As a student, he served on the advisory board for the first accreditation of the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration by AACSB International - the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. During his final year, he was president of the Accounting Club, which he helped revive from a state of dormancy.
“I remember the speech he gave at a club meeting that was held at our home on the river,” Linda recalls. “The leadership skills that he would later apply with such effectiveness as board of trustees chairman were evident even back then.”
“People ask me, ‘how did you become an accountant?’ and I say ‘because it was the only class I got A’s in!’” Wyatt laughs. “But the truth is that everyone who’s successful can point to someone along the path who helped them. Accounting students during my time at CCU were lucky to have faculty mentors like Linda, Greg Krippel and Jim Eason who were always accessible and willing to help. But it really clicked with Linda and me. If it weren’t for Linda Henderson, I would not be where I am today. I would not be an accountant. That’s the level of influence and support she offered to me.”
Linda Roddy Henderson grew up in Asbury Park, N.J., and earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Spanish before obtaining her MBA and DBA degrees from Louisiana Tech. She met her husband, Latin America scholar Jim Henderson, in a literacy training class. They were married in Colombia, South America, where they were both working with the Peace Corps. Linda worked in the tax department of Pricewaterhouse in Bogotá before she and Jim joined the CCU faculty in 1986.
After graduating in 1998, Wyatt went to work at the Greenville office of the international accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. Almost immediately, according to Linda, he began finding ways to give back to his alma mater. He and his wife Stacy provided funding to begin a chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, the national honor society for financial information students and professionals, and he established a scholarship in memory of his grandfather, Cecil H. Black, to aid students interested in becoming public accountants.
Linda also helped facilitate Wyatt’s periodic visits to accounting classes. “He spoke to students, giving them valuable advice for starting their careers,” Linda says. “He talked to them about interviewing and résumés. And some of the students were hired by Deloitt’s Greenville office where he worked”“At that time, there was a mindset at the bigger accounting firms against recruiting students from small colleges,” says Wyatt. “Our scholarship has established a pathway to help interested Coastal accounting graduates get in the door of those larger companies.”
In 2000, Wyatt started his own full-service CPA firm, Henderson Accounting, in Greer. He was elected to CCU’s board of trustees in 2009. Soon after, he and Stacy spent a weekend with CCU President David DeCenzo and his wife Terri, discussing the direction of Coastal’s future.
“I learned about Dave’s vision, which included expanding Coastal’s physical footprint, establishing our first Ph.D. program, and moving football to the FBS level—a development that will boost academics as much as athletics because of the higher profile we will achieve through our inclusion in the Sun Belt conference.”
Wyatt was elected chairman of the board in 2011 and served for six years. “He was a smart, gutsy leader,” says Linda. “He really gave his all, and he never even accepted reimbursement for all the traveling he did.”
Where credit is due: “If it wasn’t for Linda Henderson, I would not be where I am today,” says D. Wyatt Henderson, shown at a CCU commencement ceremony.
As chairman, Wyatt says that “the primary consideration in every decision the board made during my tenure was the cost of tuition.” He is proud of the University’s fiscal record during his term as chair. In 2014, he led a debt refinance plan for the purchase of the University Place residence facility that will keep student housing fees at the same rate with no increase for the foreseeable future. Thanks to careful management and factoring in the cost of inflation, Wyatt says that student costs actually decreased by about $1,500 over the six years of his tenure. He also points out that CCU was the only university in the state that didn’t furlough any employees during the economic downturn in the last decade.
Trusting her judgment, Wyatt consulted Linda on several matters while he was board chairman. “It was her advice that stopped one measure that might have had an adverse impact,” he says.
On May 5, 2017, at his last meeting as chairman, the board of trustees surprised Wyatt with the announcement that CCU’s accounting program was officially renamed the D. Wyatt Henderson Department of Accounting.
Looking back on his long association with Coastal, beginning with the day he walked into Wall 322, Wyatt observes, “You need two things from faculty: time and attention. These are the things that Linda Henderson gave me. If you get these two things and make proper use of them, you will be successful. I am living proof.”