Paying It Forward

A son sets up a scholarship fund in honor of his father.

One day last spring, David Dugan ’98, Gonzaga’s Vice President for Alumni and Advancement, got a phone call from a man he had never met before named Ron McHenry. After introducing himself, Ron told David that he would like to establish an endowed scholarship fund in honor of his late father, Charlie McHenry.
Although Ron McHenry had not attended Gonzaga, he said he grew up hearing stories from his dad about the incredible impact Gonzaga had had on his father’s life. Then he started to tell his dad’s story.
Charlie McHenry was born to Charles and Margaret McHenry in Philadelphia on Dec 22, 1929.
Neither of his parents finished eighth grade, which was typical of the time. Charles senior and his brother John had to drop out of school to help their mother sustain the family due to the early death of their father. Margaret, too, worked as a child winding armatures and later at a bank note printing company, positioning paper on the plates and removing the printed pages. She helped Charles get a job there as a printer. He later secured a full time government job at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC and, once established in DC, brought Margaret and the three kids, Charlie, Peggy and Bob, down to DC in the late 1930s. The family settled into rental homes on Buchanan St. and later Varnum St., NW.
Charles and Margaret were determined to secure a good education for their kids, sending them first to St. Gabriel’s for grade school. They were very proud to have Charlie move on to Gonzaga, graduate and then be accepted by Georgetown University. Charlie loved baseball, playing ball as a left-handed pitcher at Gonzaga, Georgetown and, once drafted in 1951, in the Army. He served in the signal corps as a cryptographer, encoding and decoding messages in Korea during the war. Honorably discharged from the Army in 1953 as a corporal, he returned and married his sweetheart, Barbara Mehlfelt. Together they raised six children. Charlie advanced from working at PEPCO to a career as a budget analyst for the US Navy, completing his bachelor's degree in business administration at night at Southeastern University in 1958. He worked at the Navy Yard (playing on a softball team there) and later at the Pentagon. To better provide for his large family, he worked a second job at Read Plastics, becoming a trusted executive at that family-owned small business well after his retirement from 30 years of federal service in 1985.
Though working two jobs, Charlie found time to help coach community baseball and softball while his sons and daughters participated. Charlie and Barbara enjoyed a long retirement together, particularly spending time with their twelve grandchildren. As history buffs, they bought a timeshare and made annual family treks to Colonial Williamsburg—still a family tradition thirty years later, even after Charlie died of Leukemia in 2013.
“My dad worked hard all his life to provide for and support his family, never seeking attention or recognition,” said Ron McHenry. “His family is proud of his accomplishments and wishes to pay it forward, in his honor, helping to prepare Gonzaga students for equally rewarding careers and family life, through this scholarship.”
David Dugan says it’s been an honor getting to know Ron and learning his father’s story. “It’s a wonderful testament to Gonzaga that Charlie McHenry’s lifelong love for his Alma Mater inspired his son to create this scholarship fund,” he says. “We are incredibly grateful for their generosity.”
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