"I had people who reached out to me and I was willing to trust, and the people I trusted have always maintained that trust. They've been a part of me."
Moses Brewer is an institution in Denver and around the country, a one-name brand not unlike Beyonce, Plato, Bono and Oprah, says colleague and friend Sylvia Cordy, a PR executive who knows branding.
"People don't say 'Moses Brewer,' they say 'Moses.' He's built that kind of reputation," she says. "Whenever I go out of town and say I'm from Denver, the first thing people ask me is, 'Do you know Moses?'"
That reputation began at the University of Denver — where Moses earned bachelor's and master's degrees and worked in administration for nine years — and has continued to grow through his local philanthropy and 29 years at Coors Brewing Co., now MillerCoors. As multicultural relations director, Moses' job is all about building relationships and trust — two areas he excels at.
His wife, Gwen Brewer, has seen Moses run into friends on the streets of Manhattan and a beach in the Bahamas. That he's never known a stranger is a common description, and an understatement. Moses is known for telling friends, even new acquaintances, "I love you" before hanging up the phone — and what's striking is that he means it.
Moses grew up in the small town of Florence, Ala. The youngest of nine, he was raised by a single mom after his dad died when he was 6. The South was where he picked up his charm and manners, and learned about community.
"I didn't have a father, but I had a father on every corner — people who looked out for me," he says.
In 1967, he moved across the country to attend DU on a basketball scholarship. The culture shock of a young African-American man from a small town entering a predominantly white and wealthy campus was profound, but he adjusted with the help of many professors, administrators and fellow students who reached out to him.
"I had people who reached out to me and I was willing to trust, and the people I trusted have always maintained that trust. They've been a part of me," Moses says.
After graduating, he stayed at the University as a consultant-at-large, working as a liaison between students and administration while also earning his master's degree in speech communication.
"It was rewarding to say the least," Moses says. "The transition I had to make coming from being a student to being an administrator was quite remarkable. In some ways I was intimidated by it at first, but [the administrators] all took me under their wings."
Wy Livingston came to DU straight from high school in St. Louis in 1974. It was her first time away from home, and Moses quickly became a strong mentor and parental figure, even though he wasn't much older.
"He has a strong moral compass about right and wrong and looking out for you, especially girls," she says. "Moses was that chaperone angel kind of guy. In this day and age you hear so much about people being abused and not having folks to turn to on college campuses. That was not our experience, and it was because of people like Moses."
In the nearly 30 years since college, Moses has remained a friend and avid supporter of Livingston and her business, Wystone's World Teas.
"He's so humble," she says. "He still makes time. I always tell people when they're networking, if you're doing it to get something out of it, you're doing it wrong. He's truly selfless in forming connections with people. That is why he is so adored and loved."
Brian Cook, who also was a student when he met Moses, simply says, "There's not a better person or a better friend on this earth."
Cook serves on the board of the Rocky Mountain ALS Association and was able to go to Moses when the nonprofit was financially unstable and in danger of going out of business several years ago. His financial and community support not only saved the organization but made it stronger than ever.
"Moses has had a profound effect on this entire city, and for me it's been especially important because I'm a third-generation native and have kids who are fourth-generation native," Cook says. "He's true to himself and everybody around him. He doesn't promise things he can't deliver, and he delivers what he promises."
Bob Willis, assistant vice chancellor for external relations in DU's Division of Athletics and Recreation, is co-chair of the National Black Economic Development Coalition.
Willis says Moses has — through his position at MillerCoors — helped many worthwhile African-American organizations. In 2008, the company signed a covenant with the coalition committing to provide economic opportunities for African-Americans through employment and diversity, marketing and advertising, distributorships, minority retailers, purchasing, professional and other financial services, corporate contributions and board representation.
As the multicultural relations manager for MillerCoors, Moses has been responsible for shaping Coors' image in African-American communities. His budget includes support for several organizations and events he believes in, such as football classics at historically black colleges that raise money for scholarships.
He's been instrumental in changing attitudes about Coors through campaigns such as the Coors Heritage Series and spokespeople as famous as Magic Johnson.
"Moses is the face of Miller Coors in the community," Cordy says. "People know and respect him. Because he is so respected, he can build those relationships."
Personally, Moses and Gwen have also committed time and money to many organizations, including the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and Mental Health America of Colorado, which honored the Brewers last year for their significant impact in the mental health community. Their two children remain rooted in the Denver area: son Marques works for US Bank in Denver as a financial specialist and daughter Maya teaches fifth grade in the Cherry Creek School System.
Moses also is committed to supporting DU. Gwen, a DU alumna who met Moses on campus, says the University is an innate part of Moses.
"We've been married almost 32 years, and throughout those years DU has been part of our life," she says. "His commitment and affection and love for DU is just a notch below his commitment to family."
Moses says DU gave him something he can never repay: a sense of worthiness. His purpose, he says, has been to try to help, in any area he can, and DU helped him to get to a position where he's been able to spend his career doing just that. He wears his class ring proudly, the last thing his mother bought for him before she passed away.
"Where I come from, people have to believe in something to allow them to overcome some of the negativity in their lives — losing a member of their family, lack of education or employment," Moses says. "That was the environment I grew up in, with people who did not have much. I'm a believer that if you want something, if you have a desire, things can happen."
A prostate cancer survivor, Moses has been reflecting on his life a lot lately and looking to decide what's next for him at 65 years old.
Gwen can't imagine Moses ever really retiring — he laughs and talks too much on the golf course — but she can see him spending more time mentoring young people at DU and consulting with nonprofit organizations.
"I came here as a student, and now I'm a senior citizen," Moses says. "As I think back on those days, working for the University and being a student, I see learning that let me understand a lot about who I am. I look at experiences as opportunities that make me a better person."