Magazine Feature / People

Graduate ends college career, begins military career

Like many college graduates, Brian Gaudette will look back on his Commencement day with fond memories. But for him, Saturday is doubly meaningful — it signifies both the end of his college career and the beginning of his career as an Army officer.

Gaudette will receive a bachelor’s degree in real estate with a concentration in finance. Shortly after DU’s Commencement ceremony on June 6, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in a small ceremony at the Daniels College of Business.

A native of Eugene, Ore., Gaudette joined the Army after he graduated from high school in 2001. For four years, he served as a paratrooper in the airborne infantry and was stationed in Italy and the U.S. During that time, he served two back-to-back tours in Iraq.

“Being in the Army was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. It was always part of the plan,” he says. “Originally, I wanted to do four years, then go to school. But after those four years, I still wanted to go to school, but wanted to stay in the Army as well.”

Gaudette applied for the Army’s Green to Gold program, which pays for active-duty enlisted personnel to attend college for four years in return for four years of service as an officer.

He learned about Daniels’ Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management (RECM) program from his wife, Cassie, who worked as a receptionist in the RECM office at the time. DU was the only school to which he applied.

“For the first six months, I was walking around all the time with a big smile on my face,” he says. “This is a great school with a great atmosphere, and it’s been such a joy to be here.”

Because of his close connection to the school, Gaudette chose to hold his commissioning ceremony in a classroom at the Daniels College of Business, with a reception to follow in the Burns Library.

“It’s been kind of like the home base here for the past four years and I feel a connection with Daniels and the people there, especially in the real estate department,” he says.

Daniels Professor Jeff Engelstad believes Gaudette’s life experiences have provided him with a maturity and an extraordinary focus that motivates him toward academic success.

“He has a great sense of humor, but he tends to gravitate towards those with more focus than those looking for the next party,” Engelstad says.

That focus also propelled him to the top within the military. He is ranked among the top-three percent of more than 4,000 graduating ROTC cadets throughout the United States and is a top cadet in the ROTC program for the Denver Metro/Boulder region. The rankings are determined in the areas of leadership, academics and physical achievement.

Following the commissioning, Gaudette will be stationed at Fort Rucker in southern Alabama, where he will train to be a helicopter pilot. He anticipates spending time in Afghanistan.

He plans to spend at least 16 more years with the Army and will eventually attend graduate school through the Green to Gold program. He intends to invest in real estate at each place where he is stationed.

“My pipe dream is to make large enough real estate deals that I have to have my own helicopter to fly around and evaluate properties,” he jokes. “With the opportunities I’ve been given, the possibilities are endless.”

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