DU Alumni

Recent achievement award winner sets sights on Hollywood

What does a young, successful man do when he’s “reached the ceiling” at an investment banking company in New York City? Why, start a film and television production company, of course!

That, in a nutshell, sums up the decade-old career of Ryan Greenawalt (BSBA ’02), recipient of this year’s Ammi Hyde Award for Recent Graduate Achievement.

Greenawalt, who also helped establish the University of Denver’s Young Alumni Scholarship Fund and committed $25,000 to its coffers, says he needs to be challenged in life and, simultaneously, he wants to help others.

To stay challenged, Greenawalt works as managing director at New York-based Jefferies & Co., a major global securities and investment banking group. But two years ago, he started to feel just a bit bored. So he enrolled at the New York Film Academy.

“I’ve always loved film. To me, being moved by a film is like when people get moved by art,” Greenawalt says. “I get an emotional high. There are very few things in life that get you there … love, family. I wasn’t getting it from my professional life, so I decided to pursue film.”

Greenawalt took courses at night and then launched his own production company, Harrison Street Productions. Very quickly he earned an executive producer credit for his role in “Codebreaker,” a 2011 TV movie about British mathematician Alan Turing, the man who cracked the German Enigma code during World War II.

Now, Greenawalt is working on a film based on the biography “Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn” (Picador, 2007), by William Mann.

“We’re definitely thinking big stars for this one,” says Greenawalt, who says he enjoys the challenge of opening doors in Hollywood and at cable networks like HBO and Showtime.

“The thrill of the hunt is there,” he says. “It’s just like the entrepreneurial nature of the work I did for Jefferies eight years ago. It’s an eat-what-you-kill environment. It’s like Wall Street but in a creative way.”

And yet neither the successful banking career nor his budding interest in film are what fulfill him the most. For that, he points to his board membership at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.

“AmfAR is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” says Greenawalt, who is helping to launch Generation Cure, an effort dedicated to keeping younger people focused on finding a cure for AIDS.

In reflecting upon his University of Denver experience, Greenawalt says, “I absolutely credit everything I do today to the education I received at DU. I was a lost soul when I landed at the University. At DU, I saw the endless possibilities available to me. I just had to grab onto them.”

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