Marquette helped Nathan and Beth Colson find each other — and a supportive personal and professional foundation.
By Ann Christenson, CJPA ’91
Nathan Colson remembers it vividly. Though he wasn’t on Marquette’s accounting track his freshman year, he decided to take an accounting class taught by professor Cindy Gruber (now Melis), and he had just received his graded exam back. Colson recalls reading a note Melis left for him on the exam: “Have you considered an accounting major?” she wrote. Colson, who was a star golfer for Marquette, says he hadn’t thought that strongly about it at the time, but without that nudge, he now believes he would not have pursued accounting.
Instead of the Plymouth, Wisconsin, native becoming a CPA and now holding the title of chief financial officer for Milwaukee-based MGIC Investment Corp., his professional trajectory may have followed a very different path. When Nathan suggests that Melis likely wrote similar encouraging words to other students, his wife, Beth (Wessel) Colson, jumps in: “He’s downplaying that a little.” Those class choices — and the individuals he met along the way —prepared him for excellence in leadership and faith, he says.
After graduation, Nathan, Bus Ad ’06, took an audit position with PricewaterhouseCoopers. After eight years there, he made the switch to MGIC, where he has held positions such as director of risk management and vice president of finance before being named CFO.
Beth’s journey was similar in that Marquette was always the guiding light. A native Illinoisan with six siblings who all attended Marquette, Beth, Bus Ad ’07, Grad ’08, actively attended Tuesday night Mass at St. Joan of Arc Chapel with Rev. John Naus, S.J., presiding. “It helped me build perspective and faith,” she says. She grew up in a musical family, played piano and was involved in liturgical choir at Marquette. Over the years, she and her siblings, who lost their father to cancer, have raised nearly $500,000 for the American Cancer Society by performing several family concerts.
Beth was an ace student in Dr. Michael Akers’ undergraduate auditing course, earning the highest grade in the class. The Marquette professor emeritus of accounting describes Beth as living the Marquette motto of being the difference. “Her combination of technical and people skills put her in a distinct minority,” Akers adds.
Following graduate school, Beth accepted an audit position with Deloitte & Touche, an experience she calls “incredible” for knitting together the necessary technical and people skills to be successful. In 2011, she pivoted away from public accounting to work in staffing and recruiting at Truity Partners; she attributes the ease with which she was able to transition her career to her husband. “I could lean on him emotionally and financially as I stepped into this very different path,” she says. Beth is now director and partner at Truity.
Giving back is a theme that weds the Colsons’ personal and professional lives. Nathan participates in numerous forums such as MGIC’s intern experience program and Marquette athletic events to mentor students and young professionals. His golf background also led to him becoming a director of the Evans Scholars Foundation of the Western Golf Association. In 2015, Beth became the treasurer for Women for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (WMACC) and has remained very involved.
“We both actively seek out chances to pay forward the opportunities we have been given. It’s amazing to us what can come from one conversation, one introduction or one opportunity — especially when the common bond is Marquette,” says the couple.
Marquette’s influence on the couple’s lives remains strong and, not surprisingly, is being passed down to the next generation. Nathan and Beth, who met through mutual Marquette friends when Beth was in grad school, are the parents of three young children, two of whom are already Marquette basketball fans. “Our daughter wants to be a cheerleader, and our son wants to be a player,” Beth says. The two longest words the kids know, says Nathan, are “Marquette” and “University.”