Connie Dudgeon, Colorado College

Some folks seem to have the “as-the-crow-flies” path to success. For others — Connie Dudgeon included — the path has a few twists and turns.

“I’m living proof that anyone can change their life and turn it around,” she says.

She grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. Her dad worked as a purchasing agent at the tire factory, her mom became a nurse after Connie had a serious case of the croup when she was three. She worshiped her older sister Christine, 10 years her senior, who played in the school band and was on the debate team. When little sis excelled at public speaking and debate in high school, her future appeared rosy.

But roses have thorns, and Dudgeon found a few of them.

“I dropped out of college, I was depressed, I worked minimum wage jobs — I was lost,” she said. Then, at age 27, she met the love of her life and her greatest mentor, Carolyn Coulter. Both were at Emporia College in Kansas, but Carolyn was the straight-A type. Connie was not.

“Carolyn encouraged me to get my bachelor’s and master’s degree,” Dudgeon says. “That was the turning point for me.” The couple moved across country for Coulter’s work, but when both their fathers fell ill, they decided to relocate to the nation’s center to be closer to family. Coulter landed a job in Colorado Springs (she’s now with the Pikes Peak Library District), and that’s where they have stayed.

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Dudgeon too found work — as the community relations manager at Colorado College. There, she has flourished in an environment both stimulating and nurturing. Her title was upgraded to community relations director in 2008. She serves as liaison for the administration to faculty, students and the larger community, gets to plan lots of fun events and parties, and revels in the new connections she makes through the job.

Looking back, Dudgeon says she could wring her hands over the misspent years. Yet, she says, she understands she would not be the person she has become without them.

“Sometimes I think life is ultimately better for those of us who have hit some rough patches,” she says. “The happy days are that much sweeter!”