Mike Hendricks is a treasure trove of information and trivia. Like a walking encyclopedia, he can cite facts about nearly any topic.
A conversation with Hendricks could cover anything from genetics and amniocentesis to political cartoons and the history of journalism to the works of Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield. He admits to conjugating verbs in Latin "just for kicks."
Hendricks, a former science and math teacher at Blue Ridge High School, is passionate about learning but he gets even more excited about turning students into life-long learners.
These qualities served him well as an educator for 43 years and the Scholastic Bowl coach at Blue Ridge for 31 years, and they are also part of the reason Hendricks was recently named to the Illinois Scholastic Bowl Coaches Hall of Fame this year.
Hendricks, who retired from teaching last year, was one of four scholastic bowl coaches inducted into the Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013.
He was nominated last June by a fellow coach from Peoria Heights whom he had competed against for years. Hendricks learned he was selected for the award in March.
To meet the criteria, coaches must have contributed to scholastic bowl in a variety of ways including helping their students improve, running tournaments and conferences, and assisting younger coaches in developing their skills. Hall of Fame inductees must have also won at least 200 matches in their careers.
Hendricks has 602 victories as a scholastic bowl coach. He also helped several schools start their own teams, including DeLand-Weldon and LeRoy, and other schools like Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Mahomet-Seymour and Heyworth re-establish programs. He was instrumental in starting two scholastic bowl conferences: the Sangamon Valley and the Heart of Illinois.
With more than 500 scholastic bowl coaches in the state, winning Hall of Fame is quite an honor. But not one to take credit easily, Hendricks said he couldn't have won without having exceptional teams over the years.
"It was neat (to win), but I also think it vindicated our program for a long time," he said. "For me to be nominated I had to have good players."
Hendricks said coaching scholastic bowl always gave him an opportunity for more leaning.
"I thought it was a great co-curricular activity," he said. "Every match I'd go to I'd learn something."
He also said it was rewarding to work with the students.
"I love for kids to get an idea and passion. I enjoyed our intellectual discussion with the kids," he said. "It was fun."
But what he really loved about scholastic bowl was that it gave kids a chance to gain confidence.
"We had kids with physical problems, but they could play scholastic bowl," he said. "It gave them a competitive edge like a sport, but yet knowledge was key."
Hendricks says his passion for learning likely came from his parents. His father, an accountant, fostered a love of math and his mother encouraged in him a love of reading and seeing how history relates.
Hendricks says his mom, who spoke excellent French, was the first person he would call if he got stuck on a crossword puzzle.
For Hendricks, knowledge is more than just knowing facts. He believes keeping the mind sharp actually helps people live happier lives.
"If you don't practice, the mind is going to go," he said.
He hopes he passed on his love of learning to his former students.
"I (was) hoping to turn them into lifelong learners. I think you enjoy life a little bit more that way," Hendricks said.
Hendricks will be honored at the eighth annual IHSSBCA Awards Banquet on May 4 at Illinois State University in Normal.