The only thing missing was his official University of Colorado Denver diploma and a custom-made Brooks Brothers shirt. Other than that, retired 20-year Army veteran and CU Denver student Matt DePuy was well on his way.
With graduation still a few weeks off, DePuy had already started his new career in the Office of Human Resources with the City and County of Denver, he was looking good in a brand new, custom-made Brooks Brothers suit even without the new shirt, and he could thank his CU Denver Boots to Suits mentorship for both opportunities.
Boots to Suits is a program which pairs student veterans with career mentors who help the students transition smoothly from college into the workplace. As part of the program, graduates like DePuy are provided a suit, free of charge.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a suit that fit this nice,” he smiled. “I’m pretty sure I never would have been able to buy the custom suit and shirt on my own. They’re such high quality.”
Looking on proudly as DePuy had his final suit fitting at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center was his Boots to Suits mentor Nita Mosby Henry, the executive director of Human Resources with the City and County of Denver. She describes working with DePuy was fulfilling.
“It’s easy to mentor someone who already understands work ethic,” Henry said. “And, in some ways I think Matt mentored me. I was surprised to learn in our conversations how much we had in common. I expected we’d be polar opposites, but, our philosophies on business and the future of veterans was very similar.”
DePuy was paired with Henry after he expressed an interest in a public service career rather than a corporate career. And, DePuy made such a strong impression that Henry hired him shortly after the mentorship ended.
“Coming directly out of the military, without any private sector experience, wasn’t a negative,” Henry explained. “He brings a world view into city government. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff. His professionalism is very attractive and he’s an influencer. That’s huge.”
For his part, DePuy is a man of few words. So, instead of telling Henry how much he appreciated her mentorship, he showed her, by presenting her with a very special and personal American flag.
DePuy’s respect for Henry is so high, that he gave her the flag he received from the Army at his retirement. He brought her to tears and the flag is now proudly displayed on her desk.
DePuy will tell you that back in high school he wasn’t much of a student. He graduated in 1988 with a mere 1.8 GPA. He says the Army was just what he needed to get him moving in a positive direction.
Now, things have changed dramatically. In addition to his new career with the City and County of Denver, DePuy is graduating from CU Denver with a degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Sociology. He has a 3.74 GPA and, even better, he’s been named Outstanding Graduate of the Semester by the School of Public Affairs.
What a difference 25 years make! “It’s crazy,” DePuy says. “After serving 20 years in the military, Nita, Boots to Suits and CU Denver made certain that I was prepared for a career beyond the Army.
“With Nita’s help, I was absolutely ready to take on my new position. I wasn’t nervous about making the transition and I already feel like I’ve been working here for months.
For Henry, the experience was equally memorable. She’s already looking forward to next time and working with another Matt DePuy. Looking down at the flag he gave her, with tears in her eyes, she said, “I will absolutely do this again.”
University of Colorado Denver’s Boots to Suits program is beginning its’ second year and has already served over 75 student veterans, providing mentorship and internship possibilities. Information about the program and how to get involved is available online.