The Moment When Time Stood Still
It was fall 1974 when Guy Brown (C'78) first stepped foot on the University of Dubuque campus. He was a sophomore, having attended Cornell College his freshman year. Little did he know that switching colleges would lead to his happily ever after.
Guy focused on his studies as a science major, participated in extracurricular activities, and served as a resident assistant for a year. He had pledged the Beta Omicron Fraternity during his time at Cornell but decided not to pledge again at UD. Many of his friends were Athenaeans, so he was always invited to their gatherings and was eventually made an honorary member of the UD Athenaean Fraternity.
In fall 1976, Colleen Birdnow (C'79) began her freshman year at UD. Determined to finish college in three years, she jumped right into her studies, double majoring in political science and business administration with an economics minor. Colleen enjoyed staying active with student activities and organizations, including pledging to Delta Phi Sigma.
With UD being a small campus, Guy and Colleen knew of each other but never thought of each other as anything more than acquaintances until around Homecoming 1976. Other freshman girls were organizing a fashion show fundraiser and looking for participants. Guy was asked to be one of the models.
"I told them that I would do the fashion show, but only if I got to walk with Colleen," Guy said.
"I had no idea that he had said that, and I was not a fan of fashion shows, but I was a fan of making money for the organization," Colleen said.
Fate stepped in. Guy and Colleen walked together in the fashion show, wearing a tuxedo and a wedding dress for the final walk of the event. Neither of them imagined that in less than four years, they would yet again walk together in a tuxedo and wedding gown.
Fast forward to January 1977. It was the first home basketball game after winter break. Guy and Colleen were in the stands cheering on the Spartans when a moment happened that would change their lives forever. Amid all the craziness, they locked eyes from across the stands. Colleen described it as "a moment when time stood still."
Guy added, "I can still see her there in that moment. And, in that moment, we just knew."
However, they didn't say a word to each other during the game.
"Right after the game, I went back to my dorm and called Colleen. I wanted to ask her on a date. But her roommate answered and said that someone was there to take her out already. So I hung up the phone, because I was not going to chase someone," Guy said.
The guy in Colleen's dorm was a basketball player she was at the game watching. They had planned a date for after the game.
"About 10 minutes later, I called Guy's dorm because I had decided not to go on the date. But Guy had his roommate answer the phone and told me that he had already gone to bed. At 9:00 p.m.? Right. So I hung up the phone, because I was not going to chase someone either," Colleen said.
Two weeks passed. They both happened to be at an event where Guy was sitting by himself, so Colleen approached him. They agreed they both were bored, and Colleen suggested they go ice skating. So the two went skating at 10:00 p.m. and had hot cocoa after. Colleen loved to skate, Guy, not so much.
"Come to find out Guy didn't like hot cocoa either," Colleen said with a laugh.
Whether he liked skating or not, it didn't matter to Guy because he got his girl and they were steady from then on.
The two were involved in many of the same activities including Student Government Association and the Panhellenic Council. Both were Collegiate Singers and University singers, and they played on the co-ed intramural volleyball team. With years between them, Colleen had even more ambition to finish school sooner, which meant that Guy had to focus in a way he hadn't before. "I was always up for a good party," Guy said with a laugh.
In May 1978, Guy graduated from UD. He worked at a construction company in Maquoketa, Iowa, so he could be closer to Colleen while she finished her final year at UD and they could spend time together on the weekends.
After Colleen graduated in 1979, she decided to pursue her master of business administration in Boulder, Colorado. Guy, ready to commit, decided to leave his job in Maquoketa and go to Colorado with Colleen. They packed up their cars with all of their possessions and started their next journey. Knowing they were doing this on their own, there was an understanding between the two that they were doing what was best for them, but at the same time they wanted to be together.
After only one month in Boulder, Guy's employer asked him to take a finance job in Colorado Springs. So after being together every day for a month, they were suddenly apart and had no way to communicate since a phone was not in the budget. They only saw each other on the weekends Guy could drive up to visit Colleen. Although Guy had asked for her hand in marriage a few times, Colleen always said, "Not yet." Their time living separately made them realize they no longer wanted to be apart. They were ready to take the next step in their relationship.
Guy visited Colleen one weekend in November. One night as they were sitting outside the Flagstaff Restaurant overlooking Boulder with all the twinkling city lights, Guy proposed - again. This time Colleen said yes. The couple went home to Iowa for Christmas, and that's when they bought a ring and announced to their family that they were engaged.
"No one was surprised," Colleen said.
The following nine months Colleen planned for a wedding and finished her MBA while Guy worked in Colorado Springs. In spring 1980, Guy's job relocated him to Arvada, Colorado, which made seeing each other much easier.
"Our dates were very interesting back then," Guy said. "I would go to visit her and we would go to the library and I would sit there and watch her study. There were no activities other than studying at that point."
The couple was married
on August 30, 1980, during a 7:30 p.m. candlelight service at the First Lutheran Church in Oelwein, Iowa. They held a dinner and dancing reception at the Sportsman Club with 175 of their family and friends in attendance. Guy and Colleen were honored that then-UD President Walter Peterson and his wife, Barbara, attended along with several UD friends. UD friends in their wedding included Jerry Rooney (C'81), Ray Salucka (C'81), and Jeff Benson (C'80) as ushers. Kristy Knuth (C'80) was the maid of honor. Colleen's closest friend, Pat Palmer (C'79), was going to sing but wanted to attend as a friend and celebrate the day with the couple instead of singing. Another former Collegiate Singer, Bob Mueller (C'79), was the soloist.
Their wedding was filled with people they loved, lots of fun, and even a few pranks. After the couple arrived at the reception, Colleen's brothers approached Guy and very seriously told him they needed to talk. The next thing Guy knew, he was on the ground wrestling with the groomsmen as they tried to shackle a bowling ball and chain to his ankle. Eventually, they were successful and Guy had to walk around for part of the night dragging the ball behind him. It even made it into their first dance and head table photos. After a while though, Colleen said enough is enough and demanded that her brothers give her the key. After they teased their sister and her intense perseverance, Colleen got the key and freed her new husband from the shackle.
After the wedding, the couple lived in Denver for 12 years. Colleen's career started in 1980 at the Gannett ABC KUSA television station. She was the president and general manager for various television stations through Gannett broadcasting company and served on the committee to start USA Today. During this time, Guy transitioned from the finance company to banking, where he worked in consumer lending and community banking.
In 1986, Guy and Colleen welcomed their first child, Blair. Fourteen months later, their son, Pierce, was born.
In 1991, Colleen was offered the president and general manager's position at a station in Greensboro, North Carolina. Guy found his new passion in buying and flipping houses, which worked out great for their family. Guy was able to spend time with the kids and be active in their school activities so that Colleen could focus on her job. Then on nights and weekends, Guy would work on flipping houses.
Because of Colleen's career opportunities, the Brown Family spent four years in Greensboro, three years in Phoenix, Arizona, two and a half years in Davenport, Iowa, 10 years in Dallas, Texas, and 10 years in Seattle, Washington. Throughout it all, Guy continued flipping houses and being active with the kids and their activities. One life motto was "Team Brown," because together they achieved their dreams, always supported each other, and were present in their kids' lives. Guy enjoyed getting to be the dad that would go to school and spend time with the kids' classes and got to coach both children's sports teams. Another family motto was, "Life Is Good," as exampled by a T-shirt company with that name.
"Some kids I coached needed someone to be a father figure in their lives, and I got to be that person to some of the kids I coached," Guy said
In Dallas, Colleen was in the C-Suite of Belo, Inc. and was recruited to go to Seattle to work with Bill Gate's crew in turning around another broadcasting company. After that, Colleen started serving on corporate boards.
During the transition from Dallas to Seattle, Pierce finished high school and Guy stayed in Dallas with him. Blair was a freshman at SMU in Dallas. Colleen commuted back and forth. Once they moved to Seattle, Guy bought two Liberty Tax Service stores and his brother, Mitch, who with his family relocated from Indiana, helped him run the stores. The brother duo built the businesses and had the largest group of Liberty Tax stores in the country, totaling 18 when Guy semi-retired.
In 2016, Guy and Colleen moved back to Denver, where they currently reside and are as busy as ever. Colleen likes to mentor college students. She also started Women on Boards to empower and teach women in business. The organization grew so large that they no longer had a place to gather. It is now a functioning program in the Pacific Northwest and accepts 12 women into the program each year. She currently serves as a board director for four public companies and for several private companies.
Guy loves to landscape the "heavy stuff" - you won't find him just planting flowers. He also enjoys reading, golfing, and anything outdoors. Colleen calls herself an amateur genealogist, and she enjoys hiking and traveling with Blair. One of their recent trips took them to Iceland.
Guy and Colleen are very proud of their children. Blair lives in Denver and has her law degree from Seattle University. She practices law, has a career in technology, and is a Gran Prix dressage equestrian, having had a love for horses her entire life. Pierce is an American science fiction author of the New York Times bestselling Red Rising saga and is also active in the film industry. He lives in the Hollywood Hills, but the family frequently see each other and look forward to spending a two-week holiday in Denver with the family each Christmas. Both children are active in philanthropic organizations.
The entire Brown family is family orientated, and that is what means the most to them.
Guy and Colleen like to treat themselves on their anniversary - to Taco Bell!
"Early on we went to Taco Johns frequently," Colleen said.
Guy added, "It reminds us of our base and what we could afford in the early years."
Colleen laughed, "Plus, neither of us have the patience to sit through a three-hour meal."