Everyone has heard of fifth-year seniors on campus, but UM student Captain Robert Henin holds the record for being its only fiftieth-year senior.
To add to Henin’s accomplishments, the Guinness Book of World Records awarded him for having the most foreign luggage tags of anyone in the world, there is a street in France named for him, and he has traveled 20,000 miles in 26 days for a mere $380.
“Well, that was a long time ago,” Henin said.
Henin continued to take classes since receiving his undergraduate degree from UM in 1953 in medical technology.
“They had to create the medical technology program for me as I went along. I was the first student to attempt a course of study like that,” Henin said. “Now, of course, lots of people major in pharmaceuticals.”
Henin served as a captain in the infantry during World War II, where he earned three purple hearts and a badge of courage for heroism in combat.
“Three purple hearts means I was injured three times in three different countries,” he explained.
He was injured by a machine gun, a mortar shell and a hand grenade, he said. He says he still wears scars from all three incidents.
The Rue de Henin (Henin Street) in Brest, France was named after him for his participation in liberating France in Normandy on D-day.
“I walked on the street myself,” he said.
Although he’s a distinguished officer, Henin strongly protests the U.S. going to war with Iraq.
“No way. Absolutely not. No American life is worth spending for a country that is no immediate threat to anyone,” he said. “I saw men die and exposed myself to death on many occasions.”
“Nazism was a justifiable enemy- but oil is not worth any human life,” Henin said.
While in the armed forces, Henin got a taste of the world outside of the U.S. and continued traveling after he graduated from UM.
He has even visited Antarctica. Twice.
Henin ran for Florida State Legislature in 1966, but came in second.
He also owns an oil well in Florida, though it’s currently inactive.
“I’ll show you the picture of me standing next to the oil coming out the ground,” he said.
After graduating and traveling for a while, Henin was the director of a pharmaceutical laboratory, one of the first in what is now a booming industry.
He sold it in 1965 to retire early.
“But I quickly realized I was too young to retire,” he said.
Henin says he continued traveling and taking classes, soaking up knowledge wherever he could.
“Learning- I love to learn,” he said.
Henin says that a man with this kind of life experience has a lot of stories to tell, and so he wrote some of his many stories down in novel form. His new book, One Joy Equals Two Sorrows was recently published and is available to buy at Books and Books in Coral Gables and at amazon.com.
The book is about the aspirations of an individual leaving military service who vows to get fame and fortune no matter what the cost.
“It all happened to me or someone I knew,” Henin says about his novel. “I felt that these stories had to be told.”
So what is this busy man doing now?
Henin is a member of the Institute of Retired Professionals, Associated with the School of Continuing Studies. Through this program, he gets to take classes on an audit basis for no charge.
He has taken over 49 courses outside of his bachelor’s degree.
“My favorite subjects are history and religion,” he said. “And astronomy. I am fascinated by space.”
Henin was married for 18 years before his wife passed away from cancer. He never had any children.
“That’s the one thing I never got to do,” he said.
But he tries to pass on his knowledge to younger students.
“Have fun. The learning will come,” he said. “Retain the beautiful memories of your college years – all the nutty things you can think to do, do them now. But don’t hurt others in the process.”
“Someday you’ll look back and you won’t remember 90 percent of the things you learned in college, but you’ll remember the time you jumped into the lake in your bra and panties to get into the sorority,” Henin said.
For someone so educated, Henin doesn’t stress the importance of education.
“You’re not going to like this,” he begins. “But a college degree isn’t as important as it used to be. What’s valued are things like social skills, love of Shakespeare, pondering philosophy. But you’re too young to think about those things.”
Henin summed up the most important things he’s learned in life to a few short sentences.
“Never underestimate your enemies. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are the center of the universe,” he said. “Always be your own stepping stones.”
Jaclyn Lisenby can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.