University Icons – Map Your Route for Your Next Career


What does retirement look like in your life? If you’re retired now, is it everything you wanted to be? If you’re still working, do you have big hopes or dreams for what you’ll do once you’re on your own?

John and Carolyn Brzezinski decided to take their passion and turn it into a second career. Married and now retired, they took a love of road trips, photography and architecture and built a business.

John and Carolyn Brzezinski

It’s called University Icons. Together, they photograph college campuses, with a focus on the architecture. They’ve snapped pictures in 42 states so far and call these adventures “bizcations.”

John and Carolyn have a background in this business. John is a professional photographer and a former design and construction manager at Northwestern University, and Carolyn is an architect.

They say they embarked on this project to help honor higher education and the schools that are changing people’s lives, and they are on a mission to photograph all of America’s significant college architecture.

UC Berkley: Photo copyrighted to University Icons
UC Berkeley. Photo copyright: University Icons.

Carolyn creates the travel routes, John takes the photos, she sells the photos and together, they’re closer than ever.

Like so many others who reinvent their careers, their new profession was fueled by uncertain times. During the economic recession, Carolyn, who was searching for her next move, started focusing on selling her husband’s photos. She began planning more trips to photograph buildings and a business was born.

Syracuse University's Hall of Languages. Photo copyright: University Icons
Syracuse University’s Hall of Languages. Photo copyright: University Icons

“As we traversed the Midwest it became apparent that we loved what we were doing,” says John. “We were seeing great architecture, seeing the country, exploring restaurants, biking, meeting interesting people, taking photographs, being together, having a great time.”

Three years later, John and Carolyn have photographed 480 campuses in 42 of the 50 states. They say they have found that people of all ages, whether they worked, studied, or lived near the universities, identify with something they see or feel in the images of their particular school.

And, in the process, their example is proof it’s never too late to create your perfect job.