By Tracey Primrose
In Hollywood, they call it a meet-cute, the charming first encounter between two protagonists, which sometimes leads to love and, maybe, happily ever after. For Dan Warmenhoven, that meeting took place when he grabbed a middle seat on a flight from Seattle to New York so he could sit next to the lovely girl on the aisle. He recognized Charmaine Andre, a fellow Princeton student, started a conversation and the rest is history. Among the beneficiaries of this fortuitous encounter: the couple’s two children, five grandchildren and countless other young people who have benefitted from their long history of service and philanthropy.
Dan and Charmaine Warmenhoven on their wedding day, June 16, 1973
Although flattered that the young engineering student knew her name, Charmaine was not really surprised. “At that time, there were more than 3,000 male students at Princeton and only 96 women. The guys knew each woman on campus,” she recalls.
That post-Christmas flight would mark the couple’s beginning. Eighteen months later, they were married, just days after Charmaine’s 1973 graduation. Dan explains, “I couldn’t let her get away.” The newlyweds settled outside New York City and dove headfirst into busy careers. Dan worked at IBM, while Charmaine earned a master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and then took a job as a special education teacher in a local public school.
A few years later, when Dan was transferred to Raleigh, North Carolina, Charmaine continued her work in special education, including serving as the director of a program for emotionally disturbed students. Before long, the family grew with the addition of Eric and Laura, and Charmaine gave up her job and stayed home until her youngest was in kindergarten. The busy young mother did not forget the other children who had stolen her heart. An early champion of inclusion, she served for years as a catechist, helping to prepare special needs boys and girls to receive the sacraments.
In 1985, the family headed west. Silicon Valley companies were looking for talented young engineering managers, and Dan was quickly recruited by Hewlett Packard, then hired away by a telecommunications manufacturer before being named CEO of NetApp, Inc., a cloud data services and data management provider.
Charmaine was also being courted. The Diocese of San Jose was looking for someone to help with its special education program, and Charmaine was hired as the director of special ministries. The Diocese hoped to create a more welcoming space for people with disabilities, to incorporate them more fully into Church life. Charmaine embraced her new role, even learning sign language so she could work with deaf parishioners. The diocese could not have made a better hire.
There is one thread that runs through the Warmenhoven’s long, beautiful partnership: the importance of education. Charmaine’s mother was a music teacher, and Dan’s father admired no-nonsense Catholic schooling. When he was just a boy, Dan says his dad “gave me to the nuns” at the local parish school, and later handed him over to the Jesuits.
At McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York, Dan found a home. He loved the school’s intellectual rigor, competitive sports programs, structure and discipline. While several Jesuits were role models, he recalls that the lay faculty was perhaps even more influential. “Some were ordained, and some just acted like it.”
Decades later, when it was time for Dan and Charmaine’s two children to go to school, there was no question that the Jesuits would play a role. Eric attended Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, while Laura went to Boston College. Although Charmaine had worked in Catholic education for years, she came to know the Society of Jesus because of the Jesuits she and Dan met at Bellarmine. “We got to know the priests there so well, and I was always amazed by their spirituality.”
In 2002, Dan was the first non-Jesuit appointed to the Bellarmine Board of Trustees, an event which caused the school’s 150-year-old bylaws to be rewritten. Up until that point, only Jesuits could serve on the board. But the then-provincial was looking for someone with a business background who could focus on keeping financial aid and teachers’ salaries high while maintaining affordable tuition. “We’re not here just to serve the wealthy, and everyone was sensitive to that mission.” says Dan.
After repeated terms on the Bellarmine Board, Dan cycled off, only to be invited to join the board of Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School, which was founded in 2014 to empower students from underserved communities in San Jose. For eight years, he also served on the board of his alma mater, McQuaid. He loved returning to the school that had played such an important role in his life. And when he and Charmaine were asked to underwrite the renovation of three floors of a new wing at McQuaid, the Warmenhovens named them for three faculty members — one Jesuit and two lay teachers — who had inspired Dan. They did the same thing when they provided the lead gift for the new student center at Bellarmine — the naming rights were used to honor Jesuits.
After a long career at NetApp, Inc., where he served as CEO and executive chairman, Dan retired from the company in 2014. But his days have never been busier. In addition to Cristo Rey San José, Dan also serves on the boards of the Tech Museum of Innovation, Bechtel, Inc., Palo Alto Networks, and Cohesity. Charmaine is an emeritus trustee at Santa Clara University and an advisor to the school’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics; director emeritus of Americans for the Arts; board member of the Catholic Foundation of Santa Clara County; past board member of Catholic Relief Services; and an advisor to the Handicapables Program of Catholic Charities.
They have been generous benefactors to Jesuit institutions, including the Jesuits West Province, Bellarmine, Cristo Rey San José, McQuaid Jesuit, Santa Clara University, Boston
College and Jesuit Refugee Service.
“I think because of my passion around inclusion, the Jesuits’ focus on social justice just resonates with me. They just don’t talk a good talk; they walk it as well,” says Charmaine.
Dan adds, “All the Jesuits we’ve gotten to know are just incredible people, very talented and very passionate. They could do anything, but they choose to commit their lives to their mission. They’ve contributed so much to our family, and we just feel that we should give back.”
Fifteen years ago, the Warmenhovens established a family foundation that prioritizes support for Catholic education and organizations focusing on health and human services. Dan and Charmaine and their children handpick the organizations that are supported; philanthropy is an important part of the family DNA.
When they are not devoting time to their foundation and their boards, the Warmenhovens love being with their children and grandchildren (lately, in a socially distanced way). Passionate golfers, they have played courses around the world and have a special affinity for St. Andrews in Scotland. Although grounded now, they look forward to taking off again soon. Unsure about when they will be able to travel overseas again, one thing is certain: They will be seated side by side.