Kelley (Mandracchia) Wilber
Resident of: Rock Hill, SC
NC State connection: 2003 graduate with a double major in pulp and paper science and technology, and chemical engineering; husband, David Wilber, graduated from NC State in 2001 with a degree in communications
Primary area of giving: paper science and engineering program in the Department of Forest Biomaterials, College of Natural Resources—Class of 2003 scholarship endowment and general support. Monthly gifts starting in 2007, with the amount increasing over time. Currently a member of the Chancellor’s Circle (annual gifts totaling $1,000 or more).
Why did you decide to attend NC State? When I was in high school, my dad talked to me about the in-state public universities. I was good at science and math, and was considering something in engineering or the medical field. NC State was pretty much my first choice from the beginning. Also, my grandfather was a mechanical engineering professor at NC State; he retired my freshman year. About halfway through my senior year of high school, I got a letter from the College of Natural Resources about programs and scholarship opportunities. I didn’t know much about the pulp and paper field, but it seemed interesting.
What was it like when you found out you had received a Pulp and Paper Foundation Scholarship? I was in the top 10 of my high school class in Charlotte. I didn’t have fantastic SAT scores, but I had worked, participated in sports—I was a well-rounded, good student. I tried for so many scholarships that I didn’t quite get. I was like a lot of kids who are right below that superstar level. My parents didn’t have a ton of money for my college education; I worked throughout high school and college. They made enough money, though, that we didn’t really qualify for financial aid. We were right in the middle. Getting the partial pulp and paper scholarship was great. I kept applying for opportunities and by my junior year at State, I was totally on scholarship.
What was special about your experience at NC State? The pulp and paper program—the professors and staff are just amazing. They really prepare you for a job, for the process of getting a job, and for a real-world career. It’s like a family. They do so much for you. The professors are serious about teaching and not just research. I worked successfully in the paper industry for eight years. Now, I’m a sales engineer in the field of water/wastewater treatment, with a territory in the Carolinas. I’m traveling a little less since our son was born.
What connects you to the area that you’ve chosen to support? What kind of difference do you hope to make? A lot of students are probably like I was—in that group in the middle that can get overlooked. I want to help provide opportunities to other people like I had. I don’t give a huge amount of money, but it’s important to me to help keep this program strong at NC State and to help regular students. I’m able to give back because of what NC State did for me.
What would you say to encourage alumni to invest in NC State? Think about what you got from your degree and the people who made a difference for you. You can help someone else have those opportunities at NC State.