For John and Mary Zappone, both Whiting School alumni from the Class of ’86, Johns Hopkins will always be home.
The two met their freshman year. Mary was then a biomedical engineering major, but John soon lured her, subtly, he says, to his major: chemical engineering. Both excelled in the classroom and found time for extracurricular activities. Mary made the Dean’s List and competed on the varsity women’s diving team. John earned academic honors, served on Hopkins’ chapter of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers, and was house manager of Phi Kappa Psi.
The pair quickly developed a love of Baltimore and all things Hopkins: the Homewood campus, research, and, of course, lacrosse. The lacrosse fire still burns bright for John. He travels to as many Blue Jays games as he can and several years ago he created a national news site for the sport: www.laxnews.com.
After graduation, the couple got married while pursuing MBA degrees at the Columbia Business School. The Zappones then moved to Houston to take positions at Exxon Co.— he as a senior auditor, she as a total quality management team leader. The newlyweds might have been 1,400 miles from Baltimore, but Hopkins was not far from their thoughts.
They both became active in the Houston alumni chapter (John would later become president) and they began to donate to the university an amount tripled by their employer. They also began a nearly annual tradition of traveling back to Baltimore each spring for Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.
Says John of their Hopkins connection: “We love the place. We just always feel welcome here. It’s our home. It’s also a permanent reflection of us. For me, it opened up every door I ever wanted to be opened.”
John, who developed a passion for computers at Hopkins, worked his way up the corporate ladder with Exxon and then worked in sales for both Oracle and Siebel Systems. After serving as president of a real estate development company in Connecticut, he took a senior position with a major software firm based in Atlanta. Earlier this year, he became director of business development for Zensar Technologies, a global IT services provider.
Mary, who is now director of corporate strategic planning and analysis for Alcoa, previously held senior management positions with such heavyweights as McKinsey, General Electric, Exxon, and Tyco.
With a wealth of business knowledge to share, the Zappones are more than happy to pass some on to the next generation.
John has been a board member of the JHU New York Alumni Chapter since 2003. He is currently a member of the Society of Engineering Alumni (SEA) and Mary is a former member. For the past 15 years, Mary has served on the university’s National Alumni Schools Committee. In her role, she represents Hopkins at college fairs and receptions, interviews prospective students, and fields phone calls from current students and young alumni looking for advice.
What’s her sales pitch to prospective students?
“I tell them it’s a great school and a really nice size,” she says. “Hopkins is just small enough to be a tight community and a place where you can get to know the professors very well, if you reach out.”
She says it’s easy to volunteer when you feel so strongly about the university’s mission. “We enjoyed our time at Johns Hopkins a lot,” she says. “And we appreciate the training and education we received here, and we want to give back.”
She says it’s also been rewarding to donate money to the School of Engineering and general university fund. Each year, they return to the Homewood campus and marvel at Hopkins’ physical growth. “We can see that the money is well spent,” she observes. “In our own small way we know we are helping raise the prestige of our alma mater.”
The Zappones have three daughters, ages 10 to 14, who are all currently enrolled in Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth, a program for academically advanced students. Any talk of where they want to go to college?
“Oh, they all want to go to Johns Hopkins,” Mary says with a laugh. “Well, it’s a school they know very well now, and they always hear us saying such great things about it, so it’s not so surprising.”
Mary recalls a moment last year when School of Engineering dean Nick Jones met the Zappones’ eldest daughter, Frances, while they were in Philadelphia. Jones later sent Frances a letter telling he looked forward to her enrolling at Johns Hopkins one day.
“She saved it,” Mary says. “I think she might take him up on it.”