President of the Rotary Club of New York 1970-1971


Dan O. Henry


Dan Henry passed away on January 19, 2003 at the age of 91. He was a member of the Rotary Club of San Diego from 1951 to 1961. He then became a member of the Rotary Club of New York, from 1961 to 1974. He was the President of the Rotary Club of New York 1970-1971. After 13 years in New York, he rejoined the Rotary Club of San Diego in 1974.  He was very proud of his 48 years of perfect attendance in Rotary.

Wright City, Missouri was Dan’s birthplace on June 24, 1911.  When he was three, he saved his younger brother’s life at a pond.  That may be where he first discovered his interest in water sports and aquatic safety.  When the Boy Scouts built for the City of San Diego the Youth Aquatic Center on Fiesta Island in the 1980’s, Dan became the commodore.  He took up windsurfing in his 70’s.  Besides his brother’s life, no doubt there are others that are alive today or, at least, enjoy swimming, sailing, and canoeing because of Dan Henry’s passion for aquatics.

After graduating from Milliken University, Dan taught high school math and chemistry in Decatur.  He also coached and became a Scout leader.  That volunteer interest turned into a career and, in 1939, he joined the staff of the Winchester, Virginia Boy Scout council.  Following his service in World War 2 with the Navy, Dan joined the regional Boy Scout staff in Los Angeles.  He became the executive director in San Diego on November 1, 1951 and left on November 1, 1961.  The plaque given to him as he left our Council said “Thanks from the 95,908 Scouts you have served.”  He led the New York City Council, the largest in America, until his retirement in 1973.

In 1974, Dan and Robbie returned to San Diego from New York City. He had retired from the Boy Scouts a year earlier, started law school at NYU at the age of 62, and decided to finish school at the University of San Diego. While attending USD, he became the initial executive director of the San Diego Community Foundation.  He and Robbie made the first discretionary fund donation to the Foundation.

He started an estate law practice after he left the Foundation, practicing law from the age of 66 to 88.

Aquatics, Scouting and Rotary were three of Dan’s passions. During his tenure in our club, we built a camp, King Creek Camp, in 1953.  While a member of the New York City club, he was equally active.  There’s a story of his neice, Katie, visiting the Henry home in New York, looking at all the photographs of her uncle and she remarked… “I recognize Uncle Dan… who are the rest of these people.”  Robbie went to the pictures and pointed out “Spiro Agnew, John Glenn, Haile Sellassie.”

His legacy to San Diego Scouting is the Mataguay Scout Reservation, purchased in 1958 when Dan convinced Dwight Stanford and other members of the board to purchase a ranch near Lake Henshaw.  That ranch became a 750 acre Scout camp.  Our Rotary Club has used the Conference Center for Camp Enterprise.  In his memory, the middle lake at Mataguay will be renamed “Lake Dan Henry.”

The living legacy that Dan left behind are his family members.  He and Robbie were married 62 years before she died in May 2001.  His son, Dave, lives in Montana and is a hospital administrator.  One daughter, Ann Thomas, is a pastor of a church in Washington.  The other daughter, Sue Walters, is here today and is a teacher at Morse High School.  That brother he saved back in 1915 is still around… Frank lives in Seattle and is a retired doctor of abdominal medicine.  His sister, Bettie Anne Thayer lives in North County with her husband, Jim, who is a member of the Vista Rotary Club.

Twelve words that capture the life of Dan Henry are Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

Three words that sum up his life’s motto are “Service Above Self.”



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