Offering a helping hand
Tony and Andrea (Andy) Nocchiero know personally how a helping hand can change someone's life.
Both received full scholarships to attend Washington University in St. Louis. Without them, neither would have been able to earn undergraduate degrees from WashU that influenced the direction of their lives. Now, it is their turn to provide that helping hand.
The Nocchieros, of Evanston, Illinois, have made a gift to support need-based scholarships to students in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and in the College of Arts & Sciences.
"We think the Washington U. experience is unique and wonderful," said Tony, who earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1973. "We want to help others, regardless of means, to be able to have it, too."
Together, they have sponsored annual scholarships in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and in the College of Arts & Sciences for the past five years. The new gift, the Nocchiero Family Scholarship, will continue those and add endowed scholarships in both Arts & Sciences and in Engineering.
The Nocchieros said they feel that the university is stronger and better when students come from a variety of backgrounds and means.
“We applaud the university’s increasingly robust outreach to students with greater financial need, and we want to support it,” Andy said.
Both describe WashU today the same way they did when they first visited the campus as high school seniors.
“WashU just felt so warm and encouraging and inclusive from the very beginning,” Andy said. “Whenever we’re on campus, it still has that same feel, which is a testament to the university’s commitment to building and preserving that culture.”
Tony grew up in The Hill neighborhood in St. Louis and was the first in his family to finish high school, let alone go to college.
"The scholarship gave me time to sample more of the WashU experience, and I think that's important because you also learn so much outside the classroom," he said.
As students, Tony and Andy were part of the first freshman orientation committee in which students designed all of the programming for the incoming class. Tony also was co-chair of the student committee that ran the Assembly Series, and Andy led the committee for the opening gala for what is now Mallinckrodt Center. They remain very involved with the university: Tony is a member of the School of Engineering & Applied Science National Council, Andy is working with the Arts & Sciences Honorary Scholars Program alumni, and both are active members of the Chicago Regional Council.
As much as he loved studying chemical engineering, Tony realized after a summer internship at a Texas oil refinery that a career in business or research would be a better fit. He earned an MBA at Northwestern University in 1975 and joined Amoco Corp., where he worked for 27 years in various finance roles, ultimately as chief financial officer of BP Chemicals after the companies merged.
A few years later, Tony became vice president and CFO for Merisant Worldwide Inc., then returned to the chemical industry as senior vice president and CFO of CF Industries Inc. He retired from full-time work in 2010, though he occasionally does some consulting and is a director of Callon Petroleum Co.
Andy was in the second class of George E. Mylonas Scholars in Humanities, part of the Honorary Scholars Program. She earned a degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate in 1974. She earned a master's degree in English literature from the University of Michigan in 1975 and then taught high school English. In 1991, she co-founded a nonprofit that mentored teen mothers and promoted early literacy. Now, she reads to kindergarteners in Chicago, continuing her interest in early literacy. In addition to helping to re-engage other recipients of the Honorary Scholars Program, she was the speaker at the 2017 Arts & Sciences Scholarship Dinner.
The Nocchieros enjoy traveling. Their favorite destinations are the Colorado mountains and Italy, where they have relatives. Their visits inspired Andy to learn to speak Italian, which she has studied for a dozen years. In addition, they volunteer in local and national politics, including at the national headquarters of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns. They have two adult sons, Daniel and Peter.
"We are paying the university back for its kindness to us, but also 'paying it forward,' as they say, helping someone after us who needs the same help we did," Andy said about their motivation for the gift. "We probably shouldn't have been surprised, but we are also having so much fun getting to know 'our' students."
"We missed our active connection to the university during the hectic years of career and kids," Tony said. "Our reconnection to WashU and being a small part of the important work of the university has been wonderful — an unexpected result of creating our scholarships."