Americans exchange seven billion greeting cards each year. That number would be a lot lower if Henry Doyle ’73 put down his pen.
Henry is an Episcopalian priest and chaplain at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in Faribault, Minn. He has worked at the school for 20 years, and for almost that long, he has sent greeting cards — tens of thousands of them — noting birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births, and deaths. Every Christmas, he sends out more than 2,000 cards.
It’s a practice Henry says he is proud to continue; one that started innocently enough.
“My first year here, I had about 150 students,” he says. “I decided to send each of them a birthday card. And one student told me that was the only card he got. I realized it was important to have someone remember your birthday, even if you were at school.” So he began expanding his address and date book, noting not just birthdays, but other landmark dates as well.
Henry takes his time with the greeting cards he sends, addressing each by hand, not abbreviating any addresses, and making sure he doesn’t miss anyone on his list. He calls his card project “a ministry” and says it has helped him in his life as an Episcopalian priest. “It’s a way to show people someone cares about them.”
Henry grew up in Colorado Springs and attended Colorado College with a pre-med or pre-law degree in mind, but he graduated with a history major. After CC, he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Ethiopia where he taught English as a second language, geography, and was in charge of a forestry project. “I worked in a refugee camp while I was there,” Henry says. “And it was the first time I was faced with people who were dying. It was eye-opening.”
When his Peace Corps stint ended, Henry visited other parts of Africa and Europe and eventually returned to Colorado. He worked in banking and was a liquor store clerk for a while, but says he felt he “wanted to do something more fulfilling.”
He enrolled at Colorado State University and in 1981 received his degree in college student personnel administration and began working as director of the Towers housing complex on campus. He later became a director at Regis College in Denver.
He says he was happy with his new career, but he recalls “something was pulling me. I hadn’t realized it was God.” He enrolled in Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin, and in 1989, started his job as chaplain at the small private co-ed boarding and day school.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” Henry says. “I’ll be 58 on my next birthday, and I don’t know if I’ll continue sending cards when I retire.”
So far, he hasn’t slowed down, and in the rare instance when he has lost touch with one of his card recipients, he says he usually finds out. “They will say, ‘Henry, you missed my birthday!’”