As NIU students in the 1950s, hometown sweethearts Carol Mulcay and Arlyn Waite enjoyed all that the college experience had to offer. Carol, who originally came to NIU to study what now is called early childhood education, had instead discovered her passion for accounting and was well on her way to becoming one of the first female graduates of the Department of Business Education.
Arlyn, who was six years older than Carol, and had served with the Navy and then the Illinois State Police before returning to school, was earning high marks as a business major.
Both he and Carol were creating fond memories as part of a close-knit community of students and faculty. They were eagerly drawing the blueprint for their future together and preparing to make their marks on the world when an act of generosity from a neighbor back home touched their lives forever.
By senior year, Arlyn found himself in a predicament that is all too familiar to NIU students even today: Just one year shy of earning his bachelor’s degree, he needed money to cover his tuition.
Thanks to a $1,000 loan from that neighbor back home, the bill was paid. Arlyn settled the debt a year later, but that generosity would inspire the couple to make it their mission to help future generations by supporting scholarships.
Starting Their Lives
By August of 1954, Carol was among the first female graduates of the Department of Business Education. While she waited for Arlyn to complete his bachelor’s degree, she taught beginning typing classes in a western suburb of Chicago.
Arlyn would eventually graduate 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 raise sons Jerry, an NIU graduate and now-retired social worker for the state of Illinois, and Kenneth, an engineer in Florida.
Arlyn, meanwhile, became one of the first graduates of NIU’s master’s degree program in school business management. He worked in several suburban districts before beginning a 20-year career in Elmhurst, Illinois.
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, Illinois, where she worked for more than two decades.
Arlyn and Carol retired in 1989, moving south to Florida. Distance never stopped them from thinking of NIU, however, and the critical role it played in their lives.
Driven to pay forward their advantages to people who are passionate about their personal and professional dreams, the Waites generously shared their financial comfort in the hopes that college students could graduate with as little debt as possible.
Arlyn passed away in December of 2014. Now in her 80s, Carol continues to live in Florida. Life in the Sunshine State has revolved around church activities, volunteer positions at two hospitals, and, for more than a 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.
Carol also continues to support her alma mater by providing scholarship funding. The scholarship is currently supported by annual gifts as well as a future gift in her estate plan. The estate gift allows her to experience the joy of the impact of her gift now as well as provide a legacy that will live on for generations of Northern Illinois University students