The ground floor of Leo Hall is no one’s first choice. The “mungy, dusty, bug-infested” basement as described by former residents offers tighter spaces and more claustrophobic rooms than the rest of the freshman dormitory building.
Typically inhabited by a motley crew of college males, the underbelly of Leo rarely features late night powwows of math-based students. Colby Gray, ‘18, spent his freshman year down in the cellar with his eventual best friends, a group of information systems and computer science students. The time wasted away watching Austin Powers and experimenting with the rulebook for housing.
His objective: find the most radical thing a student could do to their room without infringing upon the regulations set by Resident Director April Bourlier. “He won’t give up on a task until a task is complete or it is determined impossible. In this case, it’s as if he just wanted to be annoying,” said Robert Catalano, his next-door neighbor.
As a result of Colby’s efforts, Leo Hall has a new rule. A resident cannot loft their desk on top of their bed to sit at their ceiling.
UP TO SPACEX—Colby continues to build upward toward the skies. Currently, he works as a process-planning intern at a test facility for one of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies, SpaceX.
Founded in 2002, the Elon Musk-directed organization has a much more daunting objective than first-year interior decorating. The talented minds at the Hawthorne, California headquarters seek to colonize other planets.
This cutting-edge work comes at the end of a long journey for Colby, born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Waco was not the only stop on the path—Colby studied and interned internationally for over a year before joining SpaceX.
An internship at Infineon Technologies in Munich, Germany provided a major career opportunity for Colby. He garnered practical experience, serving as a data analyst for a company specializing in microelectronics that “make life easier, safer, and greener.”
Database systems, when constructed efficiently, allow for speedy indexing of geographic data. Essentially, they are designed like a map. Colby spent massive amounts of time overlooking billions of roads in these database map systems that summer in Germany. For many, a semester abroad fulfills their need to broaden their horizons and delve into a foreign culture, but Colby wanted more.
“I had planned on the one semester in Germany, somehow I ended up traveling abroad for eleven months,” Colby said. He studied in London the next fall and traversed Asia the following spring. This experience was enriching and eye-opening. The world was at his fingertips.
“He has always been one to roam around,” Catalano said of his dear friend. “Even when we go out he disappears into the crowd and does his own thing.” Colby had tried hard to get out of Oregon, and applied to schools all across the country. He thrives in new places.
“Being away from home that long was never challenging. My happiness comes from the next chapter. Home is wherever I’m at,” Colby said.
The massive tech-based exodus from Oregon to Texas had a brief pit-stop. A brief internship at Principal Financial in Des Moines, Iowa, cleansed Colby’s palette for travel.Although not as exotic as the other locales on his Vernian expedition, free housing sweetened the pot. Des Moines has become known as “Internship Village” due to a program by the University of Iowa’s initiative to bolster and encourage innovation in the area.
The eclectic internship experience and vast cultural exposure gave Colby the best chance he would ever have to apply for a position at his dream company. Dr. Alan Labouseur, the professor of several database courses Colby took, posted the listing on iLearn.
Fifteen years after a young Colby took interest in a man set on going to a different planet, he gets to help make it happen. And the group of kids trapped at the bottom of Leo Hall? They’re still around, cheering him on.
“He always brings the party with him, so spending our last semester without him will be sad. However, we’re all happy and proud of him,” Catalano said.
Colby was almost back to his New Gartland dorm room when he received a call from SpaceX’s HR department, and his boys were waiting. Their close friend was granted the offer of a lifetime.