For inspiration in business and in life, Julie Austin doesn’t need to look far. All she has to do is talk to her mother and grandmother.
Julie, 22, will be the third generation in her family to graduate from the CU Denver Business School when she finishes her studies next year. Her mother, Christie Austin, 61, and her grandmother, Emily Hamrick, 87, are both successful businesswomen. And they both graduated from CU Denver in 1979.
“I’m fortunate to have been able to graduate from [CU Denver],” said Hamrick, who earned a degree in organizational management. Previously, Hamrick completed three years of college at the University of North Carolina, but then she got married and put off finishing her degree – for more than 20 years. She had four children and worked to help put her husband through dental school.
A goal to graduate
Later, Hamrick moved to Denver and went to work at an oil company. She started as a secretary and worked her way up to management, overseeing nearly 150 employees. She took night classes at CU Denver, one course at a time, until she finished her degree at age 48, graduating with honors.
“I always said I would finish my education,” she says. “I was excited to be back in school and determined to stick with it. Every class was helpful – I loved it.”
Hamrick’s daughter, Christie Austin, earned her degree the same year – at age 23 – with a double major in accounting and finance. She took courses during the day, worked as a bartender and restaurant server at night to pay for school and finished her degree in three and a half years. Although she and her mother rarely crossed paths at school, both had the same determination and work ethic.
“Most of our classes were in the old red brick building on the corner of Lawrence and 14th streets,” Christie said. “It looked like an old school house. It worked well, but it was nothing like the business school is now.”
A successful career
Christie went on to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and later, a loan originator for Franklin Mortgage. She convinced her husband, Bob Austin, a mutual funds coordinator, to join her in the business.
It was a busy time. In 1987, the couple opened Englewood Mortgage, a successful business that had more than 30 employees. While building the business, Bob and Christie adopted a son, Michael, and in 1995, Julie Austin was born.
“The business was blossoming and when Julie was born, I said, ‘I’m really going to retire,’” she said. She was home for two years until a family friend asked her to join his new money management firm, Marsico Capital.
“He told me, ‘I really need a CFO, and I want you to be that person,’” Christie said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” The venture began with $100 million under management and grew to more than $100 billion.
Excelling in a new field – the links
Christie, who took up the game of golf at 26, excelled as an amateur golfer, winning women’s tournaments in both Colorado and nationally.
In 2006, the United States Golf Association (USGA) offered her a position on the executive committee, the fifth woman in 114 years. Christie knew the job would require a large time commitment and a lot of travel, so she retired from Marsico Capital after a successful 10 years.
Austin continues to work with the USGA. In 2015, she was one of four American women and only 15 women worldwide to be invited to join The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland. She also was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Risk-takers and role models
Like her mother and grandmother, Julie Austin took an untraditional path to the CU Denver Business School. She attended her freshman year San Diego State University, but it wasn’t a good fit. She decided to come home.
“I wanted to go to a business school where kids wanted to work, where they would put their heads down and get it done,” she said. “I noticed all the kids at CU Denver were serious about their education, and I realized these students were like me. I’ve just loved going to school here.”
Julie expects to graduate from CU Denver in December 2018 with an emphasis in finance and risk management.
“Everything about both my mom’s and grandma’s stories is so incredible,” she said. “I’m so blessed to have two women who were ahead of their time and such hard workers in my life.”
Although her grandmother laughs and shakes her head when she’s asked if she’s a risk-taker, Julie considers her one.
“Both of them are such risk-takers – from my grandma going back to school and my mom not being afraid to switch careers,” she said. “They were fearless – they weighed the risk and were smart about it. It makes me think, ‘Wow, I could do that too.’”