The Summit Foundation names Dr. Walter Briney Outstanding Citizen for extensive volunteer work

Photographed on Thursday, Nov. 7, in Frisco, Dr. Walter G. Briney has been named Outstanding Citizen by The Summit Foundation.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — The Summit Foundation has named Dr. Walter Briney, vice president of Summit Habitat for Humanity, as Outstanding Citizen for the group’s annual philanthropy awards. 

As a lifelong volunteer, Briney has made a name for himself helping to reinvigorate the area’s Habitat for Humanity chapter and working with the Summit Community Care Clinic, along with a considerable amount of volunteer work on the Front Range. Still, Briney said he was surprised when he learned he’d won the award.

“I was really thrilled,” Briney said. “I do a lot of volunteering here and down in Denver, but I never expected anything like this to happen. … It’s a wonderful compliment, and it helps to make all the volunteer activities that I’ve carried on with seem really worthwhile.”

Briney said it was his parents who first instilled in him the desire to give back to his community. He grew up on a farm in southern Michigan, where his parents were schoolteachers.

“They gave their time to help children,” Briney said. “My father, in addition to being a teacher and administrator, taught baseball and basketball. They were just very involved in volunteer activities in our small community in Michigan. And that’s probably what got me started.”

Briney earned his undergraduate degree at Western Michigan University before taking on medical school at the University of Michigan. After he graduated in 1959, he moved to Colorado to continue his education, attending the University of Colorado School of Medicine for his internship and residency. He finished his residency in two parts, taking a two-year break in 1961 to serve with the Department of Internal Medicine and as the director of Professional Services for the U.S. Air Force hospital at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

In 1966, Briney began his private practice as a rheumatologist, while he also took on a role as an associate clinical professor of medicine at CU. He retired from his clinical practice in 1999 but continued to work part time for the next 15 years with Denver Health Medical Center and University Hospital.

Briney officially retired in 2014, and while he’d been a lifelong volunteer already — with roles at CU, and a number of arthritis and osteoporosis organizations, among others — he was able to jump into more volunteer opportunities in Summit County. Briney said his son, who was handicapped and died at 48 years old in 2012, also served as a major motivating factor for his desire to get more involved in volunteer work and help disadvantaged people.

Soul of the Summit philanthropy awards

Award winners 
• Outstanding Philanthropist: Howard and Sue Carver
• Outstanding Board Member: Kim Dufty
• Outstanding Business: Omni Real Estate
• Outstanding Citizen: Dr. Walter G. Briney
• Outstanding Educator: Chris Hall
• Outstanding Professional in a Nonprofit: Noelle Sivon
• Outstanding Volunteer: Mary Anne Johnston
• Outstanding Youth: Summit High School Mountain Dreamers
• Outstanding Youth Mentor: Aaron Landau and EVO3
• Community Collaboration: Youth Empowerment Society
• Spirit of the Summit: Mark and Deb Spiers

In 2013, Briney joined the Summit Habitat for Humanity board, where he served as the executive director until recently stepping down to the role of vice president. At Habitat, Briney is credited as the driving force in revitalizing the group, particularly the ReStore program that sells secondhand furniture to help fundraise, as well as the A Brush with Kindness program, which offers necessary home improvements for low-income homeowners in the area.

Briney also began volunteering with the Summit Community Care Clinic in Frisco, where he’s put his experience to work consulting with other physicians in the field of rheumatology.

“Looking at what he’s done here in Summit County, he’s become a very active and cherished volunteer at the Summit Community Care Clinic,” said Dr. Don Parsons, who nominated Briney for the Outstanding Citizen award. “He’s brought his expertise pro bono to the Community Care Clinic. … But in addition to that, he is the heart and soul of Habitat for Humanity here in Summit County. He’s done a whole lot of wonderful things to bring that organization back to life. It’s a whole other dimension but equally impressive.”

Briney is not one to brag about himself, but The Summit Foundation’s award is just one of a number of accolades he’s received of late, including being named one of Summit County’s super seniors by the Summit Daily News earlier this year and receiving the Colorado Community Health Network’s volunteer award in 2018.

When he’s not volunteering, Briney said he enjoys spending time with his wife, Janie, whom he credits with always supporting him during his many professional and volunteer endeavors. As a family man, he said he and Janie like to get together with their four children and nine grandchildren along with taking advantage of all Summit has to offer, like hiking with their dog and going to performances of the National Repertory Orchestra and other shows at the Dillon Amphitheater.

Despite a successful medical career, Briney said his volunteer work still stands out as particularly special to him.

“I don’t feel like I need the recognition,” Briney said. “I’m very happy with my life. But it’s good to see people recognize what I’ve done and that they feel my accomplishments are worthwhile.

“Since I’ve been involved with the Community Care Clinic and with Habitat for Humanity, the biggest impact has been seeing the major problems that disadvantaged people have and what a wonderful opportunity we have to help them. The work I’ve done with these people has had probably the biggest impact of anything on my whole life.”

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