A Legacy Of Love: Mary Chiappetta, '77, Honors Late Husband John, '77, With Scholarship
By Tony Scott

chiappetta-bwJohn and Mary Chiappetta enjoy the log ride at Disneyland in the '70s. 

Mary (Mansell), ’77, and John Chiappetta, ’77, met at NIU during the first week of their freshman year at a fraternity party. Both marketing majors, they would see each other frequently in class and at social events.

Mary would recall, “I was always secretly crazy about him.”

After graduation, the two reconnected and began dating. In 1979, they wed, had a ‘miracle baby’ in 1994, and their marriage lasted almost 25 years until his death from brain cancer in 2004 at age 50.

Mary established the John Chiappetta Scholarship Fund to honor him 20 years after his passing.

“Since NIU gave us both so much, it was time to give back,” she said. “I received a scholarship back in the day, and it bolstered me and gave me the courage to move forward. I thought, maybe we can help someone else? And I know my husband John is smiling down as we pay our blessings forward.”

Mary grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Her dad worked at Sears Roebuck and her mom was a homemaker raising the couple’s four children. 

Uncertain about how she would pay for college, Mary recalls a high school friend asking about what school she planned to attend.

“I told her I didn’t think I could go,” Mary said. “She said, ‘You are going to college!’ So, I applied to one school: NIU. A few friends had applied there, and it was fairly close to home.”

With the help of a scholarship and a single, small student loan, she moved to DeKalb in 1973.

“I decided to be a marketing major because I took some early business classes and liked them. Plus it was the ‘70s and there weren’t many women working in business at that time. I thought there was an opportunity there,” she said.

Mary made a lot of friends at NIU, friendships that have lasted for decades, including John's college buddies.

“We had our own ‘mini sorority’,” she said. “There were six of us girlfriends in a three-bedroom apartment! We are all very close to this day.”

Mary worked in food service at NIU during her four years there.

“That job allowed me to graduate almost debt-free and taught me responsibility, valuable skills, and introduced me to managing fellow students,” she said. 

Mary was able to land a marketing job right out of NIU.

“My first job was a marketing coordinator for an industrial gas manufacturer supporting the direct sales and distributor networks,” she said. “I traveled a lot in those days, attending trade shows and doing magic tricks with liquid nitrogen as Dr. Freezo the Magnificent. Great fun as a new grad! Later, I worked for 25 years in banking and financial services and had a wonderful career that took us out to California.”

John also found success in his career after graduating.

“John enjoyed a stellar career in sales, primarily helping large manufacturers with water treatment solutions,” Mary said. “He loved his customers, and his customers loved him. He passed away while working for GE and had enjoyed many years of recognition for his hard work and dedication.”

“Everyone loved John,” she added. “How could you not?”

The John Chiappetta Scholarship Fund is a testament of Mary's love for John and the opportunities that education bring. Thanks to the Chiappettas, more NIU students will be impacted by an NIU education without the worry of debt, and will be able to make their own bright futures.