In Memoriam: Sen. Michael B. Enzi

The former senator from Wyoming and GW alumnus died at age 77.

Michael B. Enzi and Edward "Skip" Gnehm Jr.
GW alumnus Michael B. Enzi (right) died on Monday at age 77. He is pictured here with his GW roommate and lifelong friend Edward ‘Skip’ Gnehm Jr., at Mr. Gnehm’s President’s Award Ceremony in 2017. (Photo: Dave Scavone)
July 27, 2021

The George Washington University community remembers the life of Michael B. Enzi, B.S. ‘66, a former U.S. senator for Wyoming who died on Monday. He was 77.

Mr. Enzi was admitted to the hospital last Friday after sustaining serious injuries while riding a bicycle near his Wyoming home. He died peacefully on Monday surrounded by his family, according to a statement posted by the former senator’s twitter account.

A member of the Republican Party, Mr.  Enzi, was elected in 1996 to the Senate and served until January 2021. He did not seek a fifth term. He was chair of the Senate Committee on the Budget during the 116th Congress and was earlier chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Mr. Enzi, who had a reputation as one of the few senators during his time in Congress to work with both parties on legislation, also was a member of the commitees on Finance as well as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Mr. Enzi majored in accounting as an undergraduate at GW. Before entering public life, he  served for six years in the Wyoming National Guard and owned and operated his family’s shoe store business. He was elected mayor of Gillette, Wyo., in 1974 and served until 1987. He was later elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming State Senate. 

Throughout his life, Mr. Enzi maintained a close friendship with his GW roommate, Edward "Skip" Gnehm Jr., B.A. ‘66, M.A. ‘68, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, Australia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Mr. Gnehm is the Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs and director of the Middle East Policy Forum at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Mr. Enzi said he did not feel called to public office when he graduated college, but decided to run for mayor after a conversation with then-Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) at a men’s leadership conference. In a farewell address in December 2020, Mr. Enzi said it was “the honor of a lifetime to serve the great people of Wyoming.” He liked solving problems for his constituents and his country, he said, and working on legislation. 

“As we move forward, of course, our country has no shortage of problems we need to address,” he said in his farewell speech. “Some are out of our control, but many of our own making. If my experience over the years has taught me anything, it is that we will never be able to tackle these challenges unless we find common areas of agreements and work to solve these problems together.”

Mr. Enzi spoke to GW School of Business students in 2018 about how his background in accounting served him well in public office. His GW education prepared him to negotiate with oil companies, bond raters and members of the U.S. Senate, where he was the only accountant during his first 14 years in national office.

He told the GWSB students that he had been guided by a basic rule in his political, business and personal life—the 80 percent rule.

“There are certain topics you can talk about successfully,” he said. “There are others if you start up you’re going to get into a big fight.“ He advised them to focus on the issues  they could agree upon, “Now if you find one that you really feel together on, I’ll bet you agree on 80 percent of that issue,” he said.

Mr. Enzi’s family expressed their deep appreciation for the prayers, support and concern following the former senator’s hospitalization. They ask for privacy and continued prayers, according to a statement posted by the former senator’s Twitter account.

The family is planning to hold a celebration of a life well-lived, with details to be shared later.

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Sen. Mike Enzi Takes Account of Washington

March 23, 2018
The GW alumnus talks to Accounting Department students about a profession that has served him well in public service.