Pat Hamill Reflects on His Time at DU, a Life of Giving Ahead of Commencement
There’s a specific piece of the University of Denver’s vision that has stuck with Pat Hamill in life and business: “a private university dedicated to the public good.”
The successful businessman, developer, innovator and, above all, philanthropist, has let that seep into his giving across hundreds of causes as he works to build a better future. The founder, chairman and CEO of Oakwood Homes and alumnus (BS ’81) of the University, will speak to the undergraduate commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
“When you’re running a business—and ours is pretty significant and large—you’re not just occupying the business space, you have people who live and work in the community,” Hamill said. “Ultimately, you want to bless as many souls as you can, and we have a long track record of that as an organization and myself, personally.”
While his passion for serving the public good was further crystalized at DU, it didn’t start there. Hamill credits his father, who was an entrepreneur, his “greatest mentor” and his “first ski coach,” as the person who sparked that particular fire. His family grew up in the Midwest, and Hamill says they weren’t wealthy, but his father still made it a point to give back as much as they could.
Hamill’s desire to learn—and ski—brought him to the University of Denver, where he first expressed an interest in computer science. At the time, it was considered the final American frontier, and the innovative nature of the industry intrigued him. But as he became more involved in the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, he saw the impact that industry could make. Chuck Shinn, the head of the program at the time, was an active homebuilder in Denver, and Hamill says he started to notice how many graduates had become dominant figures in the industry.
As he began working as a developer and entrepreneur, Hamill founded a consulting business that regularly employed DU students.
“I still get a laugh out of this, but Chuck Shinn told me that when he’d come to teach a class and no one was there, he knew [that was because] they were working with me,” he says. “But DU has really helped instill this concept of lifelong learning. As I became a consultant and worked with many, many builders and developers across the country, I learned that there were so many ways to do it and what was really important.”
That work and thirst for knowledge led Hamill to a natural conclusion—he wanted to start his own homebuilding company. He’d pepper CEOs with questions during meetings and dinners, trying to learn as much as he could. A few of them noticed Hamill’s passion and drive, which led them to want to be partners in the process.
By 1990, Hamill founded Oakwood Homes, which grew to become one of the largest homebuilding companies in the Denver area and was sold to Berkshire Hathaway in 2017. Along the way, he founded and led numerous charitable efforts to increase educational opportunities, not just for students in less fortunate circumstances, but also industry-specific initiatives. He worked to grow the workforce of potential builders and contractors, offering avenues outside of higher education. He co-founded both the BuildStrong Education foundation and the 21st Century High-Tech Academies at Martin Luther King Middle School and Montbello High School in the Green Valley Ranch area of Denver.
Hamill also chaired Colorado Concern, a group of top executives in Colorado with a common interest in enhancing and protecting Colorado’s business climate. He’s on the board for the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver, the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, the Early Childhood Commission and many more.
At DU, he was named an honorary dean of the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver in 2004 and is a trustee of the University of Denver Burns School scholarship fund.
Closer to home, he has continued his father’s legacy of giving by empowering family members to give more, often gifting them with money to support various charitable causes. This commitment only grew after a serious car wreck in the mountains nearly killed Hamill last year.
Beyond the business success and love of education, he says he is more determined than ever to help DU students develop a love for giving.
“My goal is to bounce my last check,” Hamill says, smiling. “I just want to get the timing right.”