The University of Iowa

Jo Hendrickson

Jo Hendrickson, black and white photograph
Since joining the faculty in 1989, Jo Hendrickson has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of students with intellectual disabilities. Hendrickson was integral in establishing UI REACH, a two-year certificate program that makes the dream of attending college possible for students with disabilities.

“UI REACH positively, and in wonderful ways, impacts students with disabilities on a daily basis in the form of making the dream of college a reality, or in the specifics of supporting and guiding students as they build life skills, develop friendships, and accomplish academic and vocational goals that they have set for themselves,” Hendrickson says.

Many families of students with intellectual disabilities are grateful for Hendrickson’s exceptional work and innovation at the College of Education, which is why the Jo Hendrickson Scholarship Fund for UI REACH students was created in 2014 by a former student’s family — Tom and Jeanne Schnack and their son Adam.

Another family that benefited from UI REACH is the Sukup family, who in 2013 gave a gift through the Sukup Family Foundation to help other families have the same positive experiences as their son Andrew.

The Sukup’s attribute their son’s growth and independent college experience to Hendrickson and UI REACH.

“Every child needs their own place where they are known for being themselves, and UI REACH was Andrew’s territory where he was able to bloom,” says Charles Sukup, a member of the UI REACH advisory board. “Initially Andrew was having second thoughts, and Jo persuaded him to apply with her wonderful manner — she is such a gracious and caring person with a backbone of steel.”

The positive effects of UI REACH are something that Hendrickson will never forget, and she says working with the families has been incredibly gratifying.

“Witnessing the many ways UI REACH students overcome challenges and successfully navigate college life is absolutely awe-inspiring,” says Hendrickson. “Collaborating with families and understanding an inkling of the challenges that they have faced and overcome is equally as inspiring.”

In 2015, Hendrickson received the May Brodbeck Distinguished Achievement Award for Faculty, which honors outstanding achievement or a lifetime record of service or achievement and contributions that demonstrate significant impact through leadership, innovation, and subject-matter expertise.

“The UI REACH program would not exist without Jo Hendrickson’s visionary leadership,” says Sally Pederson, UI REACH’s advisory board chair.

Through her incredible work, Hendrickson has impacted lives of many students with intellectual disabilities, as well as their families.

“We have such high respect for Jo and how she shepherded the program. She put the greater good over her own personal reward in every situation,” says Sukup. “It speaks a lot that she has had various opportunities to retire, but she felt such a calling here to be of help to the program and the students.”