It is with profound sadness that we share with you that Dr. Jonathan (Jon) Henner passed away following a battle with cancer. Jon joined the School of Education faculty in 2016 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Specialized Education Services and the Interpreting, Deaf Education, and Advocacy Services program. He became the first Deaf tenured professor at UNCG when he was promoted to Associate Professor in 2022.
Jon was a diligent and accomplished academic whose scholarship could be characterized as groundbreaking. Rigorous in his research practice, his work on language deprivation in deaf children is perhaps the most impressive, supporting deaf children’s proficiency in American Sign Language as the basis for academic success and fostering their fluency in English. Recently, Jon was developing a theory with colleagues on crip linguistics. As a deaf academic, Jon had a unique view of disability in academia. In his own words, he was committed “to help others in the deaf community and allies to deaf academics understand the circumstances faced by the deaf.” Jon was a critic of educational policy that often treats Deaf and Hard of Hearing people as a homogenous group, rather than as a diverse group with differing backgrounds. His scholarly contributions will inspire other deaf scholars and promote high-quality and equitable services to all those in the deaf and disabled communities.
Jon excelled in the classroom, where his passion for teaching was unmistakable. He loved being a mentor and advocate for his students. Students have shared that they felt they could be their true selves in his classes. They mentioned Jon’s willingness to help all students academically and to provide support for those who were dealing with personal issues or were members of marginalized groups. Another quote from Jon’s work on crip linguistics best captures his view on language: “How you language is beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you your languaging is wrong. Your language is the story of your life.”
In addition to being an outstanding role model, scholar, and teacher, Jon was a dedicated husband and father to his three children. As a colleague of Jon’s wrote, he was a “force, never letting cancer stop him and always standing up for what he believed was right.” Jon will be missed by the greater deaf community, the field, the SOE, the university and department, the IDEAS program, his students, and by all who knew him professionally and personally.
ComPsych, the University’s Employee Assistance Provider (800.630.4847), can provide support to members of the campus community affected by Jon’s death. The UNCG Counseling Center (336.334.5874) and the Dean of Students Office (336.334.5514) can provide support to students. The Dean of Students Office can be reached during business hours (Monday-Friday).
Jon’s family is planning a memorial service for him in October. We will share more information regarding the service with the SOE family when it is available.