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Still Making a Difference

June 21, 2021 - 5 minute read


Doy Henley

Doy Henley, an Orange County businessman and philanthropist, has become a generous donor to Concordia University Irvine in his tenth decade of life, knowing that, “You can’t take it with you,” he says. “You’ve got to invest it the best you know how.”

Henley says he has “a great deal of respect for what we do at Concordia. I am making plans of investing for the good of the future, using the resources to help young people as they find their way.

Tim Jaeger, Concordia Vice President for University Advancement, Marketing and Communications, calls Henley “a humble difference-maker.”

“He is really focused on taking care of people,” Jaeger says. “He helps out under-privileged young moms. He remembers his roots and knows where his blessings come from.”

In my day, the growth of Orange County was spectacular. I was fortunate to be here at the right time.

Surviving Tough Times

Henley was raised by a single mother “on the far side of the tracks” during the Great Depression. He didn’t realize until later how challenging things were in those times. All he knew was he always had side jobs after school — shining shoes, doing yard work, “things where I could make money to help my mother,” he says. “It was expected.”

At home, he learned to read on his mother’s lap with the newspaper comic strips in front of them. “She taught me to read the funnies,” Henley says. “That was her practice reading and one of the ways I learned to read.” As a result of those lessons, he became a reader at an early age. “That was the big edge that helped me make it through,” he says. “I had this zeal to try to learn things.”

He also credits his teachers for great classroom experiences. “In those days, especially in the Midwest, teachers were the most honored people in the community, right up there with pastors, lawyers and doctors,” he says.

In high school, they routed him into vocational studies rather than college preparatory classes, knowing his mother didn’t have the resources to send him to college. World War II had just ended, and young Henley learned to weld and be a machinist. He landed a good welding job and continued to send some of his paycheck back to his mother.

“That was part of the routine. It was just something you did,” he says.

Doy Henley

Soon married to Dolores Jean, known as “Dee.” Henley’s life was again transformed by a newspaper ad when he discovered a weekend edition of The Los Angeles Times. The great number of want ads caught his eye and contrasted with the lack of opportunities he saw where he lived in the Midwest.

“I looked around at the people who were five, ten, fifteen years older than I, and they weren’t doing any better than I was.”

Doy and Dee towed a trailer to Southern California via Route 66 and arrived at a trailer park in Inglewood. From there, they discovered the Pacific Ocean, “which was right where they said it was,” Doy quips.

Century Boulevard was lined with beautiful buildings and companies posting “for hire” signs seemingly everywhere. He found a job the next day and began making good money quickly, running lathes, mills and other machines.

“I thought we’d reached the promised land because of the fact that I got paid overtime,” he says.

Riding a Real Estate Boom

They soon moved to Orange County with a new company, buying a little house off Tustin Avenue, not far from where he lives now. Then Henley made a big life change, starting his own small machine shop.

His company served aerospace customers such as Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop. The success of his business allowed the Henleys to invest in local real estate, which was surging in value.

“In my day, the growth of Orange County was spectacular,” he says. “I was fortunate to be here at the right time.”

As their business grew, so did their ability to substantially help local schools, colleges, like Chapman University and Concordia, other charities and political causes over many years. One example is St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Orange, which the Henleys have supported generously.

Dee passed away a few years ago, but Doy remains a member at the church and a supporter of the 700-student preschool to grade 8 school.

Through friends, Henley discovered Concordia and all its offerings relatively late in life, and became a supporter because the university “really does a good job,” he says.

“As you mature, you have better judgment than you do as a young person,” he says. “You look at the value of what they’re doing, how they’re influencing society, doing things for the good, how they treat people and how they encourage people to live a Christian lifestyle, and what it means to walk in the light of Jesus Christ. It’s very simple, not complicated, the idea of what it means to be a Christian. It makes life easier to live — kinder and gentler.”

Henley was particularly impacted by his friendship with CUI president emeritus Kurt Krueger, “a dear friend, a rare individual, and a very smart, terrific guy,” Henley says.

“The students provide talent for the churches that makes the churches successful, which is really when you get down to it, the key thing,” he says. “Successful churches, when people in the congregation are doing well, require people who are trained as teachers, musicians and most importantly ministers and pastors. That's one of the many things Concordia supplies. They make sure students are trained to lead churches.”

You can’t take it with you. You’ve got to invest it the best you know how.

Doy's most recent gift supports the Director of Pre-Seminary position and also provides scholarship support for Pre-Seminary and Pre-Deaconess students. “This will help students pursue their vocations,” notes Jaeger, “removing financial barriers for those who want to serve in churches and other ministries.”

‘No Regrets’

Henley still tends his businesses and portfolios, and remains involved in political causes and church life. He recently sold his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, though he regrets it and is “trying to retrieve it,” he says. He rode regularly for years across the United States. He also enjoys shooting guns at the shooting range. “I have no regrets,” he says. “If the good Lord calls me this afternoon it’ll be goodbye, good luck. No problem.”

Henley never received education beyond high school, apart from a few business courses at a local community college. What he learned about finance and investment, he learned by reading. “I’ve always been a reader, and still do read a lot,” he says. “That’s what gave me what I needed. I admired people who had an education.”

He recalls how he and his mother started with nothing, and how she raised him through the Depression. “Everything I needed most, she taught me,” he says.

He marvels at the way he and Dee were blessed through the years. Now he’s using his abundance to help students at CUI and elsewhere to “have the wisdom to do the right things for the right reasons.”

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