Founders Day: James Griesemer honored for service to the University

“There’s a deep-set value that pervades the University," says James Griesemer. Not every place is that way.”

“There’s a deep-set value that pervades the University,” says James Griesemer. Not every place is that way.”

James Griesemer remembers a much different University of Denver than the one we know today.

“I came to DU when the University was struggling, quite seriously, with financial problems and other issues,” says the professor and dean emeritus, whose first post at DU was chief financial officer under Chancellor Dan Ritchie. “My involvement was to focus on the financial dimensions while Dan looked at the broader issues.”

Griesemer helped lead the financial turnaround of the University in the early 1990s, which is one of the reasons he received the 2015 Distinguished Service to the University Award.

“The great part of the story is the rebirth, the literal renaissance, of the University of Denver,” he says. “I think so many of us who got to play a part in that are just grateful for the opportunity.”

But perhaps even more rewarding for him, he says, was his role in the rise of the Daniels College of Business, where he served as dean from 1994–2004.

During his tenure, the college increased its enrollment by 70 percent, quintupled its endowment, constructed a new state-of-the-art building, saw a major expansion in degree programs and gained a national reputation for excellence. Among Griesemer’s proudest moments for the school were its new focus on ethics and entrepreneurship as well as the “determination to build programs and curricula that were relevant and gave students the tools that they needed.”

“To see the outstanding faculty move that institution into the national ranks of great business schools — I think that’s as rewarding as anything can be,” he says.

Griesemer still keeps close University ties: He currently serves as director of the University’s Strategic Issues Program, where he leads a nonpartisan panel of experts and civic leaders who study complex issues in depth for a year and then deliver findings to government and industry leaders. In 2015 the panel will tackle legislative accountability.

“There’s this enormous sense of commitment to the well-being of the institution and to the value of providing quality to our students,” he says. “There’s a deep-set value that pervades the University. Not every place is that way.”

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