Humphrey School Supporter Charles Denny Leaves $500,000 Gift to School

Denny's gift will support research and teaching in science, technology, and environmental policy
April 16, 2020
Portrait of Charles Denny Jr.
Charles Denny Jr.

Throughout his life, Minnesota business leader and philanthropist Charles Denny believed in the importance of good public policy, particularly related to science and environmental issues.

It was in that spirit that Denny, who died last October at age 88, left a gift of $500,000 to the science, technology, and environmental policy (STEP) program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

Denny began supporting the program in 1999, when he established the Charles M. Denny Jr. Endowed Chair in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy to advance research and public service activities in science policy. The researchers who have held the Denny Chair to date are renowned experts in water quality, climate change, and urban sustainability.  

Dean Laura Bloomberg says she is grateful for Denny’s generous support of the Humphrey School over many years. 

“We are a better School because of the gifts he gave us in his lifetime. With Chuck's passing the world lost a terrific, and very humble, global citizen; and I lost a cherished mentor,” Bloomberg says. “With this generous gift, the Humphrey School is able to extend the important science policy work we do in memory and honor of a dear friend and fierce advocate for the common good.”

Bloomberg says the funding will be used to advance the STEP program’s efforts in research, community outreach, and student instruction.  

“Chuck was very proud of his association with the Humphrey School,” says his brother Jim Denny. “He had great respect for the quality and importance of the work being done at the School regarding science, technology, and environmental policy, which are at the forefront of issues central to the quality of life and the future of the country and the world.”

In addition to his gift to the Humphrey School, Denny designated $2 million for the University of Minnesota’s Medical School to support research into Alzheimer’s disease and pulmonary disease, through the Charles M. Denny Jr. and Carol E. Denny Charitable Fund at the Minneapolis Foundation. 

Chuck Denny served for 21 years as CEO of ADC Telecommunications, a Minneapolis-based Fortune 500 company that became a leader in the field of broadband communications. After he retired in 1991 he remained active in a wide variety of community organizations, and supported activities throughout the University of Minnesota and other area colleges and universities. 

He was also a strong advocate of corporate responsibility and ethical business practices.

Denny served on the Humphrey School Dean’s Advisory Council from 2000 to 2018, and more recently was a member of the School’s Honorary Council. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws by the Humphrey School in 2006.

Jim Denny, who lives in Chicago, says he and his brother were very close. He describes Chuck as “an exemplary man who stood for our highest and best values,” but never sought praise or recognition. 

“Chuck considered himself a common man, like many other people who give so much of themselves to make the world a better place, and he would be uncomfortable with this kind of attention,” says Jim Denny. “But I think he deserves it. It’s an honor for the family to be associated with the University of Minnesota in this way.”