Craig Henderson

Craig HendersonLongtime College board member, national cancer expert

I. Craig Henderson ’63, D.Sc.’94, Grinnell College retired trustee, and a nationally known expert on cancer, died Dec. 26, 2022, at his home in San Francisco at the age of 81. Craig served on the College Board of Trustees from 2000 until he retired from the board in 2016. He was committed to the College’s core values of excellence in education, diversity, and social responsibility, and with those attributes brought robust and creative perspective to his work as a trustee as well as his connections to his fellow Grinnellians, colleagues, patients, family, and friends.

As an undergraduate, he was interested in music, history, chemistry, and zoology; and he had a variety of extracurricular interests, from playing oboe in the College orchestra to being involved with student government.

Craig initially dreamed of becoming a musician, but a music teacher he respected advised him to become a doctor instead. He had considered a career in medicine even prior to college and followed the teacher’s advice while satisfying his appetite for music by serving as the College organist. Classmates recall his keen interest in preserving and playing the Herrick Chapel organ.

He graduated in 1963 with a major in history and a Fulbright Fellowship, which took him to India to work as an English language teacher. Craig then earned his M.D. from Columbia University in 1970.

While on the faculty of Harvard University, he built one of the country’s first multidisciplinary breast clinics. In 1992, he established the Bay Area Breast Cancer Translational Research Program, funded by a National Cancer Institute Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant. For the World Health Organization, he chaired the Committee on Essential Drugs and was a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Cancer. Other past roles include CEO and chair, SEQUUS Pharmaceuticals; board member, ALZA Corp.; co-founder, Access Oncology; president, Keryx Biopharmaceuticals; and University of California-San Francisco adjunct professor of medicine.

Craig was an enthusiastic volunteer for several Grinnell alumni and career development programs. He helped organize class reunions and led a very successful 50th Reunion fundraising effort. He taught a course on campus during Grinnell’s sesquicentennial and served as a speaker for the Wilson Program.

A lover of opera, he opened his home and opera connections in 2015 to let Grinnell students taking an Opera, Politics, and Society in Modern Europe class get a fall break travel experience in San Francisco. There, students spoke with opera singers, saw orchestral rehearsals, met with opera critics, and got exclusive backstage glimpses into set design and media suites.

He and his wife, Mary, opened their San Francisco home on other occasions to host alumni-student receptions. Craig and Mary shared two of their greatest gifts with Grinnell; a son and a daughter are alums. 

Craig’s other passions included sailing, travel, Nantucket, and good food and good wine. In 1993, he received an Alumni Award from the College. In 1994, he was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree during Grinnell’s Commencement.

Survivors include his wife, Mary; children, Isaac Craig Henderson ’93 (Christina Burns) of New York City and Amy Hudson Henderson ’94 (John Fuson ’93) of Washington, D.C.; four grandchildren; nine nieces and nephews; and extended family members and friends.


Spring 2023