Max Denning

With faculty and staff in attendance for convocation, Eastern Oregon University President Tom Insko announced the EOU Foundation has received the largest gift ever given to the university on Monday in the McKenzie Theater.

Alumnus Denver Ginsey has established the Denver and Jean Ginsey Scholarship through a $1 million endowment. The donation will fund multiple scholarships each year that could include full tuition scholarships for students studying business or science, engineering, technology and math programs. Denver’s contribution is the largest ever given to EOU by a living alumnus.

While Denver could not attend the announcement of his gift, two of his children, Dan Ginsey and Patsy Gay, and his brother- and sister-in-law, Jim and Char Evans, who live in La Grande, were there in his stead.

Dan said his father created educational trusts for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which spurred him to ma ke a large donation to EOU.

“He saw the impact it had on three (of his children) and then on his six grandkids,” Dan said. “It took the burden off myself, Patsy and my brother.”

Denver was born in Spokane, Washington, and moved to La Grande when he was six or seven years old, Dan said. After graduating from La Grande High School, Denver served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. When he returned, he attended EOU, known then as the Eastern Oregon College of Education, from 1946 to 1948. After receiving a certificate from Eastern, Denver went on to attend the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in mathematics.

After graduation, Denver worked for Wendell Milliman Consulting Actuary, then New York Life Insurance Co., before landing at Johnson and Higgins, one of the country’s largest insurance brokers, where he climbed the ladder to become president of the company’s Washington State Corporation.

Dan said this was not Denver’s first gift to Eastern.

“My father has given to EOU annually for many years, but we found out just how much it meant to him when he said he wanted to do something more,” he said.

Insko said at the announcement he hopes the donation is the start of a trend.

“My hope is that this is the beginning of many more to come,” the EOU president said. “We have such a compelling story here at Eastern, and the EOU Foundation is a critical part of achieving our mission: to provide access to excellence for every student.”

Denver, who is 94 years old, began thinking about making the considerable donation five years ago, Dan said.

“He always knew how much he wanted to give, but didn’t know the best way to do it,” Dan said. “I think maybe he thought he would do it upon his death, but then he wouldn’t be able to see the benefits and rewards of the gift.”

For Denver, EOU means more to him than just the two years he spent attending the university.

“It was the whole La Grande, Oregon, experience,” Dan said. “I think being rooted here was his moral compass for his whole life, and the university (represented) the progression from him being in the Navy to growing up to starting a family and having to get a job. Because of the individual attention he got here in those two years, it helped him realize what he was going to do with his education.”