The Externado ascending continuism

Juan Carlos Henao 2012

On May 2, 2012, Juan Carlos Henao took possession as the new rector and announced his “ascending continuism” policy, consisting of conserving the former rectory keystones and foundational principles, while strengthening all academic programs, not only Law, and the faculties’ interdisciplinary work.

Earlier, on March 28, 2012, the Board of Directors reviewed the candidate’s qualifications and found elements that ultimately proved decisive: over the years, Henao had built a relationship, characterized by friendship and affection, with his predecessor and mentor Fernando Hinestrosa. They coincided on the aspects inherent to “being an Externadista,” entailing respect for freedom and democracy and a definition of the Law as the “art” of peacefully resolving conflicts. In their dreams, both had the prevailing image of Colombia as a decent and civilized country.

The Cali native’s résumé includes notable academic achievements. An Externado Law graduate in 1981, he obtained Doctorate in Law from the University Paris Pantheon Assas – where his thesis was awarded the highest rating, très honorable avec félicitations du jury. Additionally, he has an extensive career as a Professor of Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Civil Liability Law, and Conciliation, at the Externado, various French universities as well as universities in several countries and continents.

As a public servant, his ascending career took him to the Colombia Constitutional Court where he was Magistrate and President. Although he still had five years of tenure, he resigned his position to accept the immense honor of being our rector.

Henao, referring to his predecessor, always stresses “the irreplaceable cannot be replaced,” and thus, always exhibits his unique personal style, alien to conventional dress and personal interactions. Being the Externadista he is, Henao has allowed himself to be the way he is. Students admire his knowledge and wisdom, his simplicity and humility, and the close relationship, which they love.

Beyond the statistical results – which have been very positive over these years – perhaps the most important feature of the new rector’s leadership is to have cleared the doubts and uncertainties that, obviously, surfaced regarding the University’s continuity after the death of Fernando Hinestrosa who, in his almost 50 years as Rector, had taken it to the top. Nothing has been placed in jeopardy and, if there are suitable terms for describing this period, they are respect, stability, wisdom, and serenity.

The Externado has proven its maturity and strength to maintain its rhythm, its vigor, and its leading role in Colombian higher education, despite the natural life changes, such as the absence of a rector intrinsically identified with the institution.