David Mayo Cornell
December 6, 2008
David Mayo Cornell of Aspen, Colo., and Houston, Texas, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008, at Houston Hospice after a valiant near two-year campaign against renal cell carcinoma. He was 73.
Mr. Cornell was born June 12, 1935, in Ehmira, N.Y., to Margaret Agnes Mayo and Homer King Cornell. His first memory was riding in the rumble seat of a two-door coupe into Rutland, Vt., where he would spend his early childhood. As the winds of war began blowing, his father joined the Navy as a commissioned officer at which time his family moved to Washington, D.C., where Mr. Cornell completed his elementary schooling.
After WWII, Mr. Cornell and his family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where Mr. Cornell attended Mark Twain Junior High School and Thomas Jefferson Senior High School. His activities included serving as president of his eighth and ninth grade classes, the male lead in his junior and senior year high school plays, commander of the ROTC in his senior year after serving as summer camp ROTC commander of all San Antonio area high school ROTCs at Camp Bullis, Texas, just north of San Antonio. During his senior year, he was awarded the Bettencourt Award, which was representative of the top ROTC cadet at Jefferson Senior High School. He also served as chaplain of his senior class.
Mr. Cornell graduated from The University of Texas in 1958 with a BRA degree in Engineering Route to Business and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. While a student at the university, Mr. Cornell was elected engineering assemblyman, Cactus Goodfellow, president of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and vice president of The Texas Cowboys, an honorary service organization. Mr. Cornell received his MBA in Finance and Economics from the University of Houston in 1968.
Mr. Cornell’s active duty assignments with the Corps of Engineers included Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.; Ft. Belvoir, Va.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Polk, La. He retired as captain in 1966.
Mr. Cornell founded Cornell Companies (NYSE: CRN) in 1991, which at the time of his departure in 1999 represented annual revenues in the corrections industry of approximately $300 million and operations in five time zones, 15 states plus the District of Columbia. In 1996, the year of the firm’s initial public offering, Mr. Cornell was selected as Dillon Read Venture Capital’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Mr. Cornell also founded Cornell Human Services in 2005, which was dedicated to the field of mental health. He deeply regretted that his health prevented him from accomplishing in mental health what he had achieved in the field of corrections.
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Mr. Cornell’s business career also included Tenneco Inc. as an assistant treasurer, where he later served as president of Tenneco Financial Services. He also served as chief financial officer of Becon Construction Co., wholly-owned by the Bechtel Group; President of Philadelphia Life Asset Management Company, and Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of eGovNet, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Cornell was a former President of the Houston Society of Financial Analysts and board member and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Keystone Insurance Companies of Pennsylvania.
Additionally, Mr. Cornell served as Chairman of the Central Division of the United Fund of Houston, board member of the Houston-Galveston Food Bank, board member of Goodwill Industries of Philadelphia, chairman of a subcommittee of then State of Texas Governor Bill Clements’ Task Force on Asset Mix and Investment Alternatives. He is a former guest lecturer at the University of Houston and the University of Wisconsin. Mr. Cornell is a former board member of the Texas Research League, the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation and the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet. He is a Life Member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Mr. Cornell had an enduring love for the mountains. He climbed Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park three times and on July 21, 1989, stood with his daughter atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak at 19,340 feet. He and his wife Linda enjoyed their many travels.
Mr. Cornell was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his loving friend and wife, Linda Judge Cornell; his daughter Mary Catherine Cornell and her two sons Christopher and David of Pittsford, N.Y.; his son David Mayo Cornell II, his wife Jennifer and their two daughters of Houston, Texas. Mr. Cornell also is survived by his brother Col. Robert King Cornell (Ret.) and his wife June of Columbia, S.C.; his sister Patricia Celeste Cornell of Willits, Calif.; and his former wife and mother of his children, Mary Jane Burkhalter Cornell of Estes Park.
Mr. Cornell touched the lives of so many more people than could ever be listed here.
He was loved and respected by classmates and friends, by corporate peers and competitors, by staff and service personnel. One’s position in life did not define a barrier to him; he spoke to everyone with the same level of respect and personal connection. David always endeavored to find the one area of commonality with someone … it could be sports (his favorite topic), politics (his second favorite), business, religion, or the meaning of life and death. He could ” and did ” talk with anyone on any topic. He was an amazing man … he will be missed terribly by so many near and far.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be conducted at 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 8, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 533 E. Main Street, Aspen, with a private family interment at Red Butte Cemetery. Honored to serve as pallbearers are Michael Broeking, Charles Cunniffe, Bob Durham, George Gracis, Dan B. Howe, Albert Sanford, Mel Spira and Norman Wirkler. Honorary Pallbearers are Fred Ayarza, Howard Bass and Doug Teegarden.
For those desiring, the family requests with gratitude that in lieu of flowers, contributions in honor of Mr. Cornell be directed to Houston Hospice, 1905 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030, and/or St. Mary’s Catholic Church ” Homeless Program, 533 E. Main Street, Aspen, CO 81611.