James F. Henriot, L '54, LLM '61, likes getting to the top of things. Specifically, the successful attorney is an avid mountaineer. He was the seventh American to climb Mt. Aconcagua (EL: 22,834 FT) in Argentina, and led the first American post-war expedition to Mt. Elbrus in Russia. He has climbed Mt. McKinley, the highest summit (EL: 20,320 FT) in North America; Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa; and many other notable peaks worldwide.
Henriot doesn't climb mountains just because they're there, as the old saying goes. "There's a personal satisfaction in reaching a summit," he said from his home in Gig Harbor, Washington, where he can see Mt. Rainier (EL: 14,411 FT) from his front deck. "You get close to nature and you get close to God. You are dependent on your companions and they are dependent upon you. So you work together as a team. It brings out the best in a person."
In a similar fashion, Henriot has made a specific bequest - an endowed scholarship - to benefit the Georgetown University Law Center because of the way the university helped him as a student. "Georgetown gave me a place to live in Copley Hall as a prefect and helped supplement my law school tuition payments in an age when there were no state and federal government loans," he said. "It meant a lot."
Henriot, a native of Washington State, was born about 12 miles north of the family farm that an ancestor settled after leaving Iowa State and crossing the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. After graduating from Seattle University, he initially taught English at a high school on an island in Puget Sound and drove a school bus as well.
His great-great-great uncle, General George Morgan O'Brien, was a lawyer, an aide to President Lincoln and one of the early city fathers of Omaha, Nebraska. Henriot began thinking about becoming a lawyer after his mother showed him a tribute the Omaha Bar Association had written upon O'Brien's death in 1885.
He chose Georgetown's law school "because I was interested in politics, and that's where the politics were." As previously mentioned, he was a prefect in Copley Hall and ran the stenotype machine for the alumni association out of the basement on the corner of 36th and 0 Streets.
After working as an assistant city attorney in Tacoma, Washington, Henriot returned to Georgetown in 1960. He ended up with the LLM degree after doing research and assisting in some national arbitrations for Professor Frank J. Dugan L’38, LL.M’39, H’79, dean of the graduate school and an expert in labor law.
When Henriot returned to Tacoma this time, he joined the Eisenhower Law Firm (headed by the President's brother Edgar) and became a civil litigator representing local and national clients in labor and employment law cases. He also was general counsel for the University of Puget Sound for many years. In 1993, he began devoting more time working as a volunteer for national and international non-profit organizations as a public service.
Henriot's interest in mountaineering began after a law school classmate climbed Mt. Rainier. Henriot, a former Boy Scout, admitted that his hobby has not been without risks: Some of his friends have died in the mountains, and he was injured the first time he climbed Mt. St. Helens. "I've never used a professional guide or porters," said Henriot, who made one climb in China using yaks to haul gear. "Nowadays, it costs more than $65,000 to climb Mt. Everest because professional climbers serve as guides."
Henriot is the past president of the American Alpine Club (1977-79) and is involved with the UIAA - International Union of Alpine Association, an association of 70 national mountaineering foundations. He is quite active with the Rotary International Foundation; the L'Arche Community, an organization which has group homes for developmentally disabled adults all over the world; and Outward Bound Schools International. With the latter, he has kayaked and hiked in the Philippines, and sailed from Hong Kong to the Philippines aboard a 127-foot brigatine, a two-masted sailing ship. (On that trip, Henriot and his shipmates rescued the crew of a sailboat in trouble in the South China Sea.)
For all his adventures, Henriot advises the use of caution and planning in any venture. "Reaching the summit isn't everything - sometimes it's enough to get up and back down in one piece," he said. "I know - it took me three times to summit Mt. Rainier."
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