Raised on a farm in tiny Prophetstown, Ill., Carol Mulcay came to Northern Illinois State Teachers College in the fall of 1951 to study what now is called Early Childhood Education.
She quickly discovered another passion, however.
Unaware that NISTC also offered degrees in Business Education – the department was created just that year under the leadership of newly hired Professor Francis R. Geigle – Carol promptly transferred for the spring semester of 1952. She credits the influence of her excellent business teacher at Prophetstown High School and a mind that “clicked” for accounting.
Geigle, who went on to play a major role in NIU’s growth from a small, state teacher’s college to a large university, served as Waite’s academic adviser and taught many of her accountancy classes.
In August of 1954, after completing three consecutive years of fall, spring and summer study, Carol was among the first female graduates from the Department of Business Education. She has fond memories of those years, remembering a close-knit group of students and faculty who frequently ate together in the cafeteria and attended classes together “in the barracks” near Gilbert Hall.
While she waited for fiancée, Arlyn, to complete his bachelor’s degree, she taught beginning typing classes in a western suburb of Chicago. Arlyn, who was six years older than his hometown sweetheart, and had served with the Navy then Illinois State Police before returning to school, graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1956.
One week later, the couple married.
The new Mrs. Waite taught business education for four years at Proviso East and West high schools; she then took a decade off to become a mother to sons Jerry, an NIU graduate and now-retired social worker for the State of Illinois, and Kenneth, a pProfessional eEngineer in Florida.
Arlyn, meanwhile, became one of the first graduates of NIU’s master’s degree program in School Business Management and worked in several suburban districts before beginning a 20-year career in Elmhurst.
Carol’s NIU career resumed in 1969, when she enrolled in the university’s new program in Library Science. That degree prepared her to become a librarian at an elementary school in Naperville, where she worked for more than two decades.
Arlyn and Carol retired from their careers in 1989, moving south to the Florida property they purchased in 1979. Distance never stopped them from thinking of NIU, however, and the critical role it played in their lives.
For Arlyn, who passed away in December of 2014, one aspect of those memories connected to Prophetstown. During his senior year at NIU, he needed money to fully cover his tuition – and, thanks to a $1,000 loan from a person back home, the bill was paid.
He settled that debt a year later, making it his mission to help future generations in the same way by supporting scholarships.
Driven to “pay forward” their advantages to people who are passionate about their personal and professional dreams, the Waite’s generously shared their financial comfort in the hopes that college students will graduate with as little debt as possible.
Now in her 80s, Carol continues to live in Florida.
Life in the Sunshine State has revolved around church activities and volunteer positions at two hospitals and, for more than quarter-century, her local library. She’s there every Saturday morning checking out books, assisting patrons and providing a friendly and open ear for people who simply come for the companionship.