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Donor Spotlight: Denver and Jean Ginsey

A numbers game

A love for baseball and talent for athletics in general guided Denver Ginsey from student body president at La Grande High School to Eastern Oregon College in 1946, and his aptitude for math and science kept him in the game long after graduation.

Denver, ’48, and his wife Jean, and her two younger brothers, grew up in the Grande Ronde Valley. Denver’s brother in law and sister in law, Jim and Char Evans, still live in La Grande. Denver played baseball, basketball and football in high school, then collegiate baseball and basketball under coach Bob Quinn after serving in the U.S. Navy.

But science professor Ralph Badgley had the most lasting impact on him. As a student, Denver passed the Badgley’s house every day after class and when he stopped to ask about his coursework Professor Badgley always had time for his pupil.

Denver graduated from EOU and transferred to the University of Washington alongside four of his classmates. The cohort often took classes together, and when grades were posted they consistently finished in the top five. Denver said his and his classmates’ success was the result of Badgley’s diligent work during their studies in La Grande.

Originally planning to study electrical engineering, Denver switched his major and instead became the first person to graduate from UW’s business program with a BA in mathematics.

Armed with his degree, he went to work for Wendell Milliman Consulting Actuary, then New York Life Insurance Co., and finally the oldest insurance brokerage firm in the world and the largest that was privately owned — Johnson and Higgins. Denver became president of the firm’s Washington State Corp., and a senior partner of the international organization.

Now 93, Denver has shifted his focus to the final innings of his career. After decades of faithfully supporting EOU students, he has established an endowed scholarship that will continue his family’s legacy in perpetuity. At $1 million, the Jean and Denver Ginsey Scholarship is the largest gift to the EOU Foundation by a living donor in the university’s history. The endowment will supply scholarships for several students in business or STEM programs every year.

Denver has also served on the board and on the senior council of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. His work with Boeing earned him an honorary law degree from the law firm Perkins Coie. He and Jean, who passed away in September 2011, have three children and six grandchildren.