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From Bearcat Basketball to the Business World, David Tenwick Values His UC Experience

When reflecting on everything he has accomplished to date, it is clear how special the University of Cincinnati is to David Tenwick ’62.  “I’m proud to be a UC graduate,” said Tenwick, who currently is Chairman of AdCare Health Systems, Inc., a long-term care business he founded in 1991.  “I owe much of my success to the education I received at UC and to the valuable lessons I learned in the process.”

Tenwick, who received a bachelor of business administration degree in 1960 before earning his J.D. in 1962, has been impacted by the university throughout his life, through both his ups and his downs. After hearing his story, it is no surprise that Tenwick is giving back to the University, as he and his wife, Anne, are lifetime benefactors.

The Lakewood, Ohio, native is also currently putting together a scholarship fund for athletes at UC who hope to attend law school after they graduate. After all, that is the path he took.

Start of a legacy

As an avid tennis player growing up, Tenwick traveled around the Midwest region competing in tournaments. He also played basketball and hoped to have the opportunity to play both sports in college. Between his interest in staying in Ohio and knowing that the Bearcats’ basketball team schedule took them to New York’s Madison Square Garden, UC seemed like the right fit for Tenwick.

In his senior year with the basketball team, Tenwick was starting alongside a guy known as “The Big O.”  That year, the Oscar Robertson-led Bearcats went to the Final Four, ultimately finishing in third place.

“We were the first UC team to go to the Final Four,” said Tenwick, noting it was the first of UC’s remarkable five consecutive Final Four appearances, which included the 1961 and 1962 National Championships.

While Robertson and other members of the 1958-59 squad went on to play professionally after college, Tenwick saw law school as his best opportunity to follow through with his dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur.  At UC, Tenwick was in a business law co-op program, which allowed him to pursue a college and law degree in seven years and at the same time earn money and gain work experience. 

After his “great experience” at the College of Law, Tenwick had a five-year stint as an enforcement attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, before pursuing a career in business. He had hoped to go into coaching, but with a salary of just $12,000, the Cleveland native decided he was going to "go into business and make a million dollars."

After leaving the SEC in 1967, Tenwick became an entrepreneur, founded NuCorp Energy, Inc.  and began his business career.  Along the way, in 1969, he married Anne, a Cincinnati native, and started a family.  The company grew and in 1979 he moved his family to San Diego.  In 1981, with the company approaching an annual run rate (projection) of one billion dollars in revenue, NuCorp became the “fastest growing over-the-counter oil and gas company in the US,” he said.

The next ‘chapter’

At the end of 1981, the oil industry had a devastating reversal and NuCorp went into Chapter 11 in 1982.  “At that point, I lost everything,” Tenwick said.  “The good news was that, with the support of my family, we survived.”

Aside from his wife and three children (Terry, Billy and Annie), Tenwick’s other family—his alma mater—was there for him as well. Thurman Owens, a former Bearcat football player then with the UC Foundation, called him. Soon after, Owens and Henry Winkler, UC’s President at the time, visited Tenwick in San Diego, as did a number of others including his former basketball coach, George Smith.

“You hear a lot of people talking about going to school and getting an education, but you never hear anybody talking about the university reaching out to you 10, 20, 30 years later and giving you support,” Tenwick said. “That was really something for me. It was really appreciated.”

While it took nine years for him to pay off his personal debts, Tenwick – who worked as a business consultant – moved back to Columbus. At the time, his mother was in a nursing home in Cleveland, struggling with Alzheimer’s. Tenwick believed his mother was not getting the care she deserved, and he thought there had to be a better way to take care of the elderly. As a result, he founded AdCare with $8,400 in credit card debt and investment help from his two brothers and Dr. Ira Abrahamson, a renowned Cincinnati ophthalmologist.

Back on his feet

For the last 20 years, AdCare has rapidly grown under Tenwick’s watch, going public on the NYSE AmEx stock exchange in November 2006. The company currently owns and/or operates 51 facilities, located in seven states and employing close to 6,000 people.

“The company just released revenues for its first quarter of $50.2 million with a projection of over $250 million for the year,” Tenwick said, adding that he “would like to see $1 billion in annual revenue five years from now.”

Tenwick has enjoyed working and continues to be very active in the Springfield, Ohio-based company, but he recently stepped away from the day-to-day operations. “I put together a succession committee about a year and a half ago,” he said of AdCare, which will be based out of Atlanta next year. “We have all new executive management people, poised to take it to the next level.”

Today, Tenwick and his wife live north of Columbus in Powell, Ohio. Although he has not been able to make it back to Cincinnati as often as he would like, he very much remains connected to the University. Tenwick is even part of an alumni group that puts on an annual golf outing in Columbus to raise money for UC athletics and other scholarships. 

While the bulk of Tenwick’s career has been away from the law, he is very grateful for his time spent at the College of Law and recognizes the value of his degree.

“It gives you a great perspective of everything in life,” he said.  “When I came back to Ohio to start AdCare, I couldn’t afford to hire any people, so I did everything myself—that is, founded the company, prepared all the legal documents, prospectuses, all the marketing and sales materials, kept all the books and records, negotiated all the deals, etc.  Knowing the law really helped and it gives you a general background to do almost anything.”

Like many who have attended the College of Law, Tenwick has found great success over the years, even outside of a traditional law career.  As he transitions out of the day-to- day activities of AdCare and finds more time to do some of the things he once loved—such as tennis—Tenwick has much to be proud of since his time at UC.

“I was not a superstar when I was recruited to attend UC.  Everyone (on the basketball team) was all-state or all-something.  However, I was a competitor and a good example of an average guy who worked hard to be part of the team and earn a good education,” Tenwick said. “I’m very grateful for everything and I am pleased to be able to give back to UC.”


By Jordan Cohen, ‘13