Mendoza School of Business

Here’s what awesome looks like

Published: November 11, 2015 / Author: Carol Elliott

Here’s Colin Dunn’s story in a nutshell:

Dunn won a car by sinking a hole-in-one during a golf tournament, and he donated the $25,000 cash value back to the charity.

If you think knowing the end of the tale spoils the whole thing, you’re wrong. Dunn’s story is not about golf, or a car, or even the money. It’s about the 10 minutes he held the keys to the shiny black 2015 BMW 428i convertible in his hand and decided what to do.

Dunn, who earned his MBA from the University of Notre Dame in 2014, talks with the easy-going cadence more akin to a surfer dude than what you might expect from a project manager and business developer for Heffron Company, a 93-year-old family owned mechanical contracting business in the Washington, D.C., area. Dunn’s father George, president and CEO, is the third generation of the family to lead the firm. Dunn currently wears many hats at Heffron in hopes of learning every aspect of the business.

As he tells the story, he’s not much of a golfer, but he played in the tournament sponsored by WINNERS Lacrosse on Sept. 16 because he was a lacrosse player himself throughout high school and while attending at Hampden-Sydney College. He also thoroughly supports the organization, which works with underserved, inter-city youth in the metropolitan D.C. area.

WINNERS Lacrosse had organized the annual charity event for 16 years. No one had ever won the hole-in-one contest on the 17th hole. The odds of hitting it were about 13,000 to 1.

Before he stepped up to the tee, Dunn sidled up to the convertible and had his buddy shoot a picture of him. He texted it to his wife Laurie with a jokey message, “Honey! I won the car.”

Her response back: “Yeah, right.”

And then he took his swing.

The ball disappeared, Dunn says. The next thing he knew, his buddy tackled him.

He texted his wife again. “Honey, I won the car. Really.”

For about 10 minutes, while he was back-slapped and congratulated by the other golfers and onlookers, Dunn held the keys and thought, wow. A new convertible. His current ride was a 2008 Chevy Silverado pickup truck whose brakes were going out. He was newly married, just out of b-school at Notre Dame, and just starting his career. The BMW’s lease value was $25,000 – a considerable percentage of Dunn’s annual income.

“Then I thought about the opportunity at hand.” Dunn says. “This was such a fluke.”

Dunn thought about how playing lacrosse had shaped his character and helped develop his leadership skills. He also thought about the legacy of Heffron, and its longstanding reputation for giving back to the community.

And he thought about Notre Dame. In 2012, Dunn had simply shown up in the Notre Dame MBA admissions office, one day before the final application deadline. He had started his application, but hadn’t submitted it. He asked to speak to the then-admissions director, Brian Lohr.

“I told him that I hadn’t applied yet, but I really wanted to come to Notre Dame. He kind of paused, but then said, ‘OK, I guess we’ll do your personal interview right now, then,” recalled Dunn, laughing.

“Notre Dame gave me a shot. And they gave me a vision – it’s all about helping others.”

Dunn announced he was donating the entire cash value back to WINNERS Lacrosse.As he stood on the green at Stonewall Golf Club on that Wednesday afternoon in September, his next move became clear.

Yes, without asking his wife. But as soon as he discussed it with her, she was totally onboard.

“The fact that we could outfit 150 kids in full lacrosse gear for the next two years instead of driving a new car – that’s why this happened,” he said.

The media has followed Dunn’s story. The Washington Post published a story on Oct. 28 headlined, “A local golfer aced his tee shot, and then he did what?” During an interview on D.C. radio station WRQX, one of the DJs effused, “Thank you for being an awesome local citizen!” When she told Dunn that the area Papa John’s was treating the entire Heffron staff to a pizza lunch, he sounded as genuinely appreciative as if he’d been handed a major prize. Like a car.

Dunn is fine with the publicity, as long as it brings attention to WINNERS Lacrosse. Not him.

It’s a rare treat to talk to someone whose voice rings with joy after handing over $25,000.

“Do we need the money? Yeah, we do,” he said. “But if something happens in your life and you have the ability to help, take a step back. Don’t think about yourself.”

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