In Memoriam

Corwin Denney

CORWIN DENNEY, FORMER CHAIRMAN of the board and president of Venus Oil Co. and life member of the USC Board of Trustees, died of complications of pneumonia after a long illness, April 1, in Palm Springs. He was 77.
A native of Ohio, Denney earned his B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1943. An accomplished pilot who had served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, he co-founded American Helicopter Co. in 1948. Starting with a staff of two – Denney and his brother, Duane – the Van Nuys, Calif.-based company grew into a worldwide operation with more than 17,000 employees. Through mergers and acquisitions, the firm later became Automation Industries Inc., a producer and worldwide supplier of technical services, with Denney as president and chairman of the board. The firm was sold in 1978 to General Cable for more than $106 million.
In 1962, he branched out further by purchasing Gilcrease Oil properties in San Antonio, Tex., and creating Venus Oil Co., an independent oil and gas exploration and production business of which he was owner, chairman of the board and president. He sold the enterprise in 1991 to Eugene L. Ames Jr., the geologist Denney had handpicked to run it. Once also a major shareholder in the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Denney sold his 27 percent interest in the establishment to Regent International for $33 million in 1985.
“Corwin was a remarkable man, a genius as a businessman and a warm, modest person who always minimized his fabulous achievements,” said Carl M. Franklin, vice president emeritus of USC and a friend of Denney’s for more than five decades.

DENNEY JOINED the USC Board of Trustees in 1980. He was also a trustee of the University of LaVerne, LaVerne; the Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage; the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles; St. John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica; the Thomas Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.; and the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, San Antonio, Tex.
His gifts to USC established the Corwin Denney Research Building on the University Park Campus and a Town and Gown scholarship fund in the name of his wife, Nanci.
“We will all miss Corwin Denney greatly,” USC President Steven B. Sample said. “He was a distinguished figure within the business community, a civic leader and a true friend of this university.”
Denney is survived by his wife; daughters Carolyn, Mary, Anne and Des Cygne; and sons Thomas and Peter.


 


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