"The University of Denver has had a significant impact on my life, and it’s simply a matter of giving back to it."
Emmit McHenry (BA '66) received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Denver as an undergraduate in the 1960s. When he became injured, his grades were good enough that the University then granted him an academic scholarship.
So when McHenry gained success in the "real world," one of the first things he did was pay the University back for its financial support.
That was just the beginning of McHenry's long, impactful service to his alma mater. For his efforts, McHenry will receive the Randolph P. McDonough Award for Service to Alumni at the Founders Day ceremony in March.
McHenry studied communications at DU and also at Northwestern University, where he earned a master's degree and nearly completed a PhD. He left Northwestern to launch the first of many successful companies in the computer networking and telecommunications industries.
A communications scholar launching technology companies? McHenry says it makes total sense.
"At the core of most successful endeavors is successful communications," he says. But McHenry also has a knack for seeing what's coming in the future. His first company, Network Solutions, grew from a modest idea—"building computer networks that support human engagement," McHenry says—to become the first company to win the right to register Internet domain names.
He and his partners sold that company, and since then, McHenry has started several more successful technology firms, consulted nonstop for organizations in many industries and many countries, and has received recognition from NASA, IBM, AT&T, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, local, state and federal governments, and non-governmental organizations in the United States and Africa.
Somehow, he also has found time to give back to his alma mater.
McHenry, a former president of the University of Denver Alumni Association, currently serves on advisory boards for the Divisions of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and for the engineering and computer science departments. He also conducts Ammi Hyde interviews and mentors students whenever he gets the chance.
"The University of Denver has had a significant impact on my life, and it's simply a matter of giving back to it," he says. "It was a nurturing place, and I think of it still as a nurturing place. The whole environment—even the air—is different at DU."
Roy Wood (BA '61, MA '62, PhD '65), a professor in the Department of Communication Studies, met McHenry on the DU campus in the '60s, and the two have stayed close.
"He's just an exceptional alumnus, and he's given a lot to the University," Wood says. "He's very accomplished, and he's very responsive to the University. Emmit is worthy of any prize you could give him."