Henry, Pooley Shuldham (1801–81), presbyterian minister and first president of QCB, was born in Randalstown, Co. Antrim, son of Thomas Henry (d. 1830), presbyterian minister and son of a minister, and his wife (m. 1794), Ellen or Elinor Shuldham (d. 1845), of a gentry family from Ballymulvey, Co. Longford, who had relatives in Co. Antrim. His father may have been the Thomas Henry who was captain of a Volunteer corps from Randalstown. Pooley Shuldham Henry had at least three sisters and a brother. He was educated in Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and then taught there in the English department until he was ordained (7 December 1826) a presbyterian minister in the congregation of First Armagh. He was minister there until 1846; in 1837 forty families, displeased by their minister's support for Leonard Dobbin, a Liberal parliamentary candidate, withdrew from First Armagh and founded another church, known as the Mall church, and later as Third Armagh. In 1837 he was appointed government agent for the regium donum, and the following year he succeeded James Carlile (qv) as commissioner for national education; like Carlile, he was in favour of educating children from all religions together, but he was somewhat more acceptable to his own denomination.
Henry also served on the commission of charitable bequests and donations, and continued to hold both commissionerships for many years. In 1841 Glasgow University awarded him the degree of DD. In 1845 he was appointed first president of the newly founded QCB. He lacked recent experience of academic life, and had never run a large enterprise, but he was in other ways an excellent choice. Even the Northern Whig newspaper, which opposed the appointment of a clerical president, in describing him as ‘the presbyterian patriarch’, acknowledged his standing in the community (quoted in Moody & Beckett, 34). Although most familiar with northern traditions and with presbyterianism, he had connections with southern Ireland, with other protestant denominations, and with government. He had good relations with catholic clergy and already believed strongly in the importance of the non-sectarian education which the queen's colleges were intended to provide. He was an impressive, conscientious, and tactful leader, whose hard work and ability to find the middle ground laid firm foundations for the new institution.
In 1869 colleagues and former students placed a bust of Henry in the college; at the ceremony he expressed the hope that QCB would remain a ‘centre of enlightenment and harmony’ (quoted in Moody & Beckett, 217). He retired 10 October 1879, received an honorary D.Litt. from QUI the same year, and after his death (8 November 1881) was accorded an immense and dignified funeral by the faculty and students.
Henry married first (date unknown) Eliza Jane McClean (1801–61), who became a lifelong invalid. In 1858 he told the government that because she had been bedridden for twenty-six years he had been unable to move his household from Dublin to Belfast; he subsequently established a residence in the college. She died 16 June 1861, and Henry married secondly (23 December 1865) Jessie, fourth daughter of William Patton, JP, of Armagh. There were at least two daughters of the first marriage, and at least one daughter of the second. A son, Thomas Shuldham Henry (d. 1894), who had been intended for a legal career, became a preacher with the Plymouth Brethren.