Before his job as business officer, Neary played gigs around the world

Each Friday this summer, the Daniels Newsroom is telling the stories of the behind-the-scenes staff who empower students, faculty and the College at large. Read past stories on our blog.

“Hey, corporate types,” says KISS frontman Paul Stanley in a commercial for Workday, “would you stop calling each other rockstars?”

Two men in ties grin and fist bump, complimenting their stellar work in the office.

Joan Jett chimes in: “Do you know what it takes to be a rockstar?”

Actually, Marty Neary does.

Before he was doing the books at the Daniels College of Business, Neary was a “broody” guitarist and vocalist in the alt-rock band Men About Town. (And he has the spikey hair and the music video to prove it.)

“It’s a sordid tale,” Neary said, laughing.

Today, life is considerably less wild. In his office in the MBA suite, Neary has traded solos for spreadsheets and vocals for a vocation as an accounting technician. But music is still a passion, and an unmistakable influence on his life.

The overture to an accounting career

Neary first laid hands on a guitar when he was 12 years old. His mom bought it with the S&H Green Stamps she had saved up from shopping trips to supermarkets and department stores.

Before long, Neary was taking bass lessons from a jazz musician who graciously smoked his pipe, legs crossed, and walked his pupil through the Black Sabbath songbook.

In 8th grade, Neary and his band turned on strobe lights and played Black Sabbath on Parents Night. (“And the parents are just kind of looking glassy-eyed, like, ‘What is happening?’”)

In high school, they dressed up as KISS (with full makeup) and accidentally set the auditorium curtains on fire.

Before long, Neary was on the road, riding a Bluebird bus across the western United States with Men About Town.  During his nearly decade-long career, he gigged everywhere from Anchorage to Japan.

“For me, the guitar is an escape,” Neary said, “a way for me to get away from everybody else, shut the door and just make my own noise and make stuff up. [Playing is] not just another thing I have to do; it’s my escape from everything I have to do.”

But after a while, Neary decided it was time to settle down. He got married, got a college degree in tourism management and, soon after, got started at the University of Denver.

The next chapter

After his touring days, Neary pictured himself in a bookstore.

“When I was a musician, I read everything, from ‘War and Peace’ to ‘Under the Volcano’—anything I could get my hands on that people said was a classic,” he said. “For six years, that’s all I did with my time before we played every night. I would just find a coffee shop in the town we were in and just sit there and read.”

In 1999, a job opened up at the University of Denver, a place with which he was very familiar. His father, Joseph (BS 1952), was an alumnus who helped build the Sigma Chi house.

Neary started as a textbook buyer, coordinating with faculty to ensure students had what they needed when classes began.

After a few hops around the bookstore and a stint at the Air Force Academy, Neary landed at Daniels—first in an administrative role in the Department of Business Ethics and Legal Studies, then in the MBA program and now as the College’s business officer.

Marty Neary standing in his office with a flying V guitarGood housekeeping

Neary is the kind of guy who loves washing his car. It’s something about the way the dirt slips off as he sprays it down from one end to the other.

“I like to do things like mowing the lawn,” he said. “I even like to iron—things that are a complete mess that I can see get better as I move along.”

At Daniels, instead of household chores, Neary works on red-highlighted spreadsheets, looking through receipts and invoices, keeping an eye out for errors and overdraws. He approves charges on company credit cards, submits contracts and answers plenty of questions about financial software.

“I’ve been here so long and been in Banner and Concur so much that I feel like people can come to me with a question and I can solve it,” he said. “I love being a detective and figuring out what the heck is happening.”

Music is still a huge part of Neary’s life. He loves dropping a needle on one of his many vinyl albums or picking up one of the 30 stringed instruments that fill his home.

But he has also found satisfaction in a place he never would have thought to look. Of all the roles he’s held in 25 years at DU, this position—skimming spreadsheets, balancing the books—is his favorite.

“It’s kind of great that I do something that nobody else wants to do,” he said. “It’s job security.”