Aspiring archeologist Don Henkle provides gift to benefit anthropology field school

The funds will help WSU students and faculty conduct field expeditions and lab work

Don Henkle participating in an archeological expedition in Kansas
Participating in archeological expeditions in Kansas and other states was one of Don Henkle’s greatest passions. His recent gift to Wichita State will help pay for the Anthropology Department’s field schools for students and faculty.

Anthropology professor Donald Blakeslee remembers one of the first times Don Henkle joined him and a group of WSU students on an archeology field trip in Kansas.

    Henkle, a metal detector hobbyist, began swinging his equipment over ground near where Blakeslee and his students were moving in an orderly line, methodically mapping their progress and setting up work grids.

    “He quickly began to see the advantages of what we were doing and began to adapt to our methodology,” Blakeslee said. “He was one of the smartest people I ever met.”

"He wanted to help us have a thriving field school program." 

- Anthropology Professor Donald Blakeslee

    The two men formed a friendship and over the next 25 years, Henkle frequently accompanied Blakeslee on archeological field trips around Kansas, Colorado and Texas. Still, it was a poignant surprise to Blakeslee when Henkle, nearing the end of his life after a battle with cancer, revealed that he was leaving a generous gift to Wichita State’s anthropology department to benefit the field schools.

    “I think he was trying to do a little bit of payback for all the enjoyment he got out of our trips over the years,” Blakeslee said. “He really enjoyed a good puzzle and that’s what we do in archeology, one puzzle after another.”

    Henkle died Feb. 18 at the age of 79. After a career working for an electrical wholesale company in Wichita, he retired while still young enough to pursue the somewhat arduous hobbies of archeology and metal detector exploration. He began attending meetings of a group of amateur archeologists and met Blakeslee at one of those meetings.

    “He had no formal education (in archeology) but he learned fast and contributed a lot to our field schools,” Blakeslee said. “He would show up with resources that I had forgotten sometimes.”

    One thing that Henkle learned over the years was how difficult it is for the anthropology department to secure the funds to pay for field schools and the analytical lab work that follows each trip, Blakeslee said.

    “He wanted to help us have a thriving field school program,” he said.

    Wanda Henkle, who was married to Don for almost 59 years, said that his association with Blakeslee and the amateur archeology group enriched his life and the lives of all who knew him.

    “He worked hard to be able to do something like this,” she said of the gift to Wichita State.    


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