Northland Pioneer College (NPC) has recognized Elinor Henderson, as the college’s prestigious Outstanding Alumnus awardee for the spring semester. An NPC Associate of Arts graduate, her father is the late Dr. Eric Henderson (a 20-year administrator and former professor at NPC who passed away from cancer in 2020).
Elinor was raised with a passion for education and for helping others with the encouragement of her loving father and family, and the support of dedicated faculty and staff at Northland Pioneer College. Her ties to the college run much deeper than her familial ones. She has a deep love for education as well as for helping those around her.
After receiving her associate degree from NPC, Elinor transferred to the University of Arizona, where she ultimately earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science with an emphasis in Dietetics.
NPC Vice President for Learning & Student Services and Title IX Coordinator Dr. Michael Solomonson directed Elinor in her first theatre production at NPC. She was cast as a small child for the college’s “Intimations from the Brook” and was an ‘amateur star.’ Solomons notes, “I have had a first-hand opportunity to see Elinor’s growth as a student and as a professional.” Elinor began taking classes at NPC while attending Holbrook High School through the college’s dual enrollment program and graduated with her Associate of Arts degree a week before earning her high school diploma. She was an excellent student and was named to NPC’s prestigious Dean's List three times. Her story is deeply entwined with the positive influence Northland Pioneer College has had on her throughout her life. Solomonson explains that Elinor later paid it forward. As one of the founding members of NPC’s Kids College program, Elinor worked on children’s theatre projects and she was the first alumni staff member to work with the college’s new generation of students.
“As compelling as Elinor’s journey has been, I have been most impressed by how she has deliberately invested in giving back to others through community service,” Solomonson says. “I was captivated by her passion for learning as well as for her service to others.”
Elinor has earned distinction not only as a student and a professional but also among the communities and individuals whom she has helped. She has worked with many organizations. In addition to NPC’s Children’s Theatre Project, she volunteered at the Petrified Forest National Park in their ranger program. She assisted with fundraisers and art auctions at the Friends of Hubble Trading Post in Ganado, raising money for Native American students to pursue post-secondary education. While attending college, Elinor volunteered at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson where she delivered food to patients and tested recipes while studying nutrition. In addition, she worked providing lunches to thousands of elementary and middle school students at Prince Middle School and participated in the Tucson 3000 Club’s ‘Market on The Move’ food pantry, which offers fresh produce to low-income community members at a low price. While studying at the University of Arizona she worked as a resident assistant and received an award in 2017 from the university for her efforts. She was also a “founding mother” of the university’s Alpha Sigma sorority chapter. She later volunteered her time while working at Southeastern Regional Medical Center where she was also employed, putting together food boxes for cancer patients struggling with food insecurity during the COVID pandemic.
Elinor recently became a new mother herself and is currently tending to those duties on her own as her husband finishes a military assignment overseas. In accepting the award, she notes that in looking back at her college transcripts she realized that she has spent a total of nine years in various capacities at NPC. “That’s officially a third of my life,” she laughs. “I think I will continue that path and enroll in some summer classes,” she adds. A true lifelong learner, Elinor states, “NPC got me started and holds a special place in my heart and my family’s as well.”
Elinor is an excellent example of how NPC improves lives, not only her own, but of the many she has touched, and as such, is a deserving recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award. The award was presented to Elinor during the March 21, 2023, meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board in Holbrook.