Paying it forward

Niki Riedell D’Esopo ’93Niki Riedell D’Esopo ’93 knew how lucky she was as a student and that inspires her to give back today.

“When I was a freshman entering Wheaton in 1989, it was only the second year of coeducation. I had the best of both worlds—the junior and senior classes were still all women, while the freshman and sophomore classes were coed,” said D’Esopo, who majored in sociology and family studies. “I was able to see the history and traditions of the school as an all women’s college and how they changed as the school became fully coed.”

She also says that her education had immediate practical benefits. “My junior- and senior-year internships were critical in helping me to translate what I learned in school to a career after college,” D’Esopo said.

She interned at senior citizen centers and produced a senior thesis on adult day care. Those experiences led to a position as an outreach coordinator for Andover’s Council on Aging and then to a position managing data for a company providing software services to eldercare organizations.

Go Beyond, Campaign for Wheaton“The college prepared me with not only academic knowledge, but also the importance of practical work experience,” she said.

However, Wheaton would have been out of reach for D’Esopo had she not received student financial aid. “Everyone knows that college is expensive,” she said.  “In my case, making the finances work was complex, but Wheaton worked with my family through a combination of financial aid, summer earnings, part-time work during school, and a named scholarship.”

That experience is what drives D’Esopo and her husband to serve on the college’s President’s Commission and to support a Wheaton Fund Scholarship for current students. “I benefited from another alum’s generosity, and I know that my annual gift makes a difference in helping another student.

“Not only does the student benefit, but it’s my way of showing the college how much I appreciate my education.”