Hendricks '17 Works on Law Degree as Undergraduate
Rob Hendricks, a member of Christian Union's ministry at Cornell, has become the first undergraduate ever to be accepted to the Cornell Law School. He is simultaneously a senior at Cornell and a first-year law student.
Hendricks received a recommendation for the program from Joseph Margulies, a joint professor in the law school and government department (his undergrad major) last year, during a window of opportunity where he wouldn't have to take the LSAT.
"From what I understand, my recommendation was based on both my performance in the professor's classes (he taught undergrad Constitutional Law courses), specifically my writing, and my extracurricular activities," Hendricks said. "They also took into account my GPA and college entry exam scores (SAT and ACT) as proxies for my LSAT."
It's an unprecedented achievement. Hendricks credits a combination of his willingness to be authentic about his faith and his holistic approach to the topic of law. He also points to the impact of his involvement with Christian Union at Cornell and the support and guidance he receives from the ministry's faculty and students.
Throughout his undergraduate studies, Hendricks consulted with ministry members and leaders regarding their thoughts on law and how a Christian should approach it. Their input, he said, was invaluable and helped to direct his research and conclusions.
"Largely because of the encouragement and the edification I receive from Christian Union and my friends, I've felt led to be straightforward about my identity and how the Gospel informs my passion for serving others," said Hendricks.
The Cleveland, Ohio native also credits Christian Union's ministry with helping him recommit his life to Christ while at the university.
"Pursuing my own pleasure left me lonely and searching for something more. I didn't know who I was," said Hendricks, referring to his Cornell experience prior to involvement with Christian Union.
One night after a Bible course, Jim Thomforde (above, left), Christian Union's ministry director at Cornell, prayed that God would lead Hendricks to His purpose on campus. He was also challenged by friends to pursue an understanding of who Jesus is and the transformative power of faith.
"The next night, I attended Vita Fidei (the ministry's lecture series) for the first time and rededicated my life to Christ," recalled Hendricks. "It's a moment I will never forget. My life has never been the same."
The senior has gone on to hold various leadership positions with Christian Union's ministry and currently serves as president.
"During his three years with us, Rob has grown strong in his faith and in his ability to lead," said Thomforde. "Rob's commitment to studying the Bible has inspired him to live a life of Christ-like love and service with his friends and the community at Cornell, and it has helped him to think deeply about the implications of the Gospel for law and public policy."
As an undergraduate, Hendricks wrote two research papers on Christian approaches to the law in American political and legal history and applied Gospel principles and thought to his academic work for a Constitutional Law class.
In December of his junior year (2015), Professor Margulies offered him an opportunity to start law school a year early, without taking the LSAT. After meetings with the admissions dean and completing some paper work, Hendricks was offered placement in the juris doctorate program as a member of the class of 2019.
"I [graduate] in the spring, but for all intents and purposes I'm a full-time law student," he said.
However, because Hendricks is still technically an undergraduate, he is able to continue participating in extracurricular sports and activities.
In addition to his leadership position with Christian Union, Hendricks is also a tight-end for the Cornell sprint football team.
"I simply do my best to play football as Jesus would—as ridiculous as that sounds," said Hendricks. "I try to be loving and show grace and humility on and off the field."
That love has matured within Hendricks' life and has been inspired by 1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as the love passage in the Bible. "That's my prayer. That's my heart cry. I want to embody it," said Hendricks. "But it's a process, and I often fall short. Thank God for grace."
And it is by God's grace that Hendricks continues in his commitment to follow God's call for his life and to trust Him in the opportunity that is unfolding.
"I know this was not of my own doing," he said. "This is a God thing."