Ask Doy Henley who influenced his success, and while the entrepreneur has a long list of people to thank, his first thoughts turn to his mother and how she taught him to read. Perched on her lap at the age of four, the young Henley sounded out his first words using comic strips.
“My mother taught me how to use the newspaper,” says Henley, who currently serves as Executive Vice Chairman of the Chapman University Board of Trustees. “Learning to read and comprehend what I was reading at such a young age has been important all of my life, giving me effective understanding and communication skills, and surprisingly, an edge in business thanks to my mother.”
From 1961 until the late 1990s, Henley owned and operated a number of manufacturing companies in Orange County, including Aeromil Engineering, which manufactured and sold products for the aerospace industry. When titanium became the material of choice, his company was among the first to utilize computer numerical control (CNC) to machine linear and lofted surfaces distinctive in aerospace products.
According to longtime friend Buck Johns, “If you talk to the big names in the aerospace world, they all know the name Doy Henley, because he was the first guy to do titanium curves. He’s a unique individual, who has accomplished a tremendous amount over the course of his life.”
In addition to aerospace manufacturing companies, Henley owned and operated businesses that manufactured consumer products, the most notable being Cox Hobbies. Cox produced radio controlled items such as planes and trains and other products for a worldwide market in the hobby and toy industry. Cox was one of the first companies involved in electronic data interchange between manufacturers and retail outlets using supply chain management with large retail companies such as Wal-Mart and others. Today, 20 years after selling his last manufacturing business, the companies Henley started are still in business.
The son of a factory working father and a mother who worked odd jobs to make ends meet, Henley comes from humble beginnings that compelled him to work hard and juggle many ventures. He grew up in Mt. Vernon, a small town in southern Illinois, during the lean 1930s and 1940s. During high school, Henley started working while receiving an education that included vocational training in metallurgy, welding and machine tool operations. After graduating, he relocated to Springfield, Ill., where he met and married his wife, Dee. While working two jobs in the early 1950s, he found a copy of the Los Angeles Times classified section that indicated there were many jobs in California. Deciding to see what the Golden State had to offer, Henley and his wife relocated to Los Angeles, moving to Orange County in the mid-1950s.
“In those days, the area was a wonderful place to live with lots of orange groves and very little traffic. Dee and I were amazed and delighted to live in such a beautiful place, and we’re still here,” says Henley, who raised two children in the area.
Over the years Henley has dedicated his time and financial resources to a number of philanthropic causes, including Chapman University, the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, and he is a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Orange and the Lincoln Club of Orange County.
"Being in business for myself, I had a flexibility of schedule that allowed me to participate in volunteer activities," says Henley.
Henley originally became involved with Chapman University many years ago when it was still a college at the suggestion of his good friend George Argyros. He has continued to support the educational institution because of his belief in the school’s mission and leadership.
“Chapman has become a great learning institution,” says Henley. “With dedicated faculty and inspired visionary leadership, the university has experienced unparalleled success and become world-recognized.”
Jim Roszak is a Chapman University trustee and Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee and has known Henley for more than 15 years. “Doy is always upbeat, and I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated and committed to Chapman,” says Roszak. “He’s extremely loyal to the organization and makes a point of getting to know the students. I often see him greeting them by name.”
For Henley, watching the students achieve is highly satisfying. “Chapman students are outstanding and seeing their accomplishments makes it all worthwhile,” he says. “They are game-changers who will be effective future leaders. It is, and has been, a marvelous experience to be a small part of Chapman’s rise to becoming a university of distinction.”
No doubt Henley’s mother felt the same when she heard her four-year-old son read, but she was the most impressed years later when she discovered that he knew Jimmy Roosevelt (The oldest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt).
Doy and Dee Henley Reading Room
Considering his lifelong passion for reading, it is fitting that a donation from philanthropist Henley and his wife, Dee, resulted in the Doy and Dee Henley Reading Room. Formally known as the Doy and Dee Henley Library of Social Sciences, the popular 50-seat reading room includes the Class of 2003 group study room and is located on the 2nd floor of Chapman’s Leatherby Libraries.
The Henleys also made possible the 4-floor student residence Henley Hall, the Henley Galleria, the Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence in the School of Law, as well as several other gifts.