“I loved Wheaton,” says Phyllis Manousos Zerbini ’75, “and I still do.” She found that the professors took a genuine interest in their students, got to know them as people and also served as mentors. “Wheaton was the best thing that happened to me.”
“As a women’s college, Wheaton instilled in me the knowledge, skills and self-confidence to grow—and to know that, as a woman, I could follow any professional path I chose, and be successful.”
Phyllis has indeed been successful, earning an M.B.A. in accounting and establishing a career at Price Waterhouse and Pratt & Whitney. She has also run the financial operations of her husband’s company and raised three children—two of whom attended Wheaton.
For her children, Christina ’04 and Steven ’11, Wheaton has been a place of opportunity. Christina participated in the women’s track team, joined the Wheaton Dance Company, served on the residence hall staff and was a member of the search committee that selected Ronald A. Crutcher as president in 2004. She also slipped in a double major in economics and Hispanic studies. Her junior semester in Cordoba, Spain, was “such a great experience that I encouraged both my sister and brother to study abroad during their collegiate experiences,” she says.
Steven did study abroad, in Australia, and he found it “incredible. I was able to experience a different culture and learn a lot about myself, my future and the world. I feel that I grew up a lot by going abroad.”
A chemistry major and an economics minor, Steven plans to attend medical school and specialize in anesthesiology. His research project with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Randall Hicks, which focuses on testing new ways of extracting arsenic and other anions from water, has helped him apply his learning “to a real situation,” he says. “I love that at Wheaton the professors and the college try to prepare you for life after Wheaton. The professors try to relate everything you learn to how you can use it in your life.”
Like his sister, Steven has been active on campus, playing on the men’s soccer team, serving as a Commencement/Reunion Volunteer, working in two college offices, and volunteering for the Wheaton Fund. “I have been very involved,” he says. “I think that is part of the reason I have had such a great experience. Wheaton has so many opportunities to offer its students, but it is a matter of taking advantage of them.”
More than 35 years after her own graduation from Wheaton, Phyllis Zerbini feels that the college has adapted well to co-education. “I still see that the community provides the skills and encouragement, and instills the self-confidence, for its students to become successful,” she says.
Her daughter Christina corroborates that thought. Christina has worked at United Technologies Corporation for nearly seven years, beginning as an associate in a leadership training program, which exposed her to four different roles within accounting and finance. She now works as a senior financial analyst in UTC’s internal audit department. Her Wheaton education has served her well, she says. “The critical thinking and approach to problem solving that my professors at Wheaton helped me develop has provided me with a strong foundation that I leverage and build upon daily,” she remarks.
“It’s very special for me to have this unique Wheaton connection with my mom and brother,” she adds. “I love it! Although many things about Wheaton have changed, many things have stayed the same. I can’t wait to see my little brother become a Wheaton alum in May, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will be next in the family to become a Wheatie.”