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"Bloomfield College has always been a part of my life. I attended as an adult student who graduated in her 40s, and the College continues to draw me back to witness the graduations of many who are important to me and to attend many exciting alumni and college events," said Mary Jessup '03.
Raised by her mother in nearby Belleville in a single parent household with three other siblings, Jessup did not want to burden her mother financially by trying to attend college after high school. Instead, she went to work to help. It was not until 17 years later, as one of her nieces was attending high school, that Jessup decided to seek admission at Bloomfield College.
Jessup did not immediately share her renewed interest in attending college with her mother. "I always did anything that my mother asked, and the day I was to go on campus to complete an admission test, she asked me to help her with something. I remember it so well because for the first time I had to say no to my mom. Once I filled her in, she was thrilled!" remembers Jessup.
"What was important to me at the time, was to serve as a role model for my nieces and nephews so they would recognize that attending college is the norm and not the exception. My best friend and I also discussed going back to school at the time. She and I attended together, and when my niece was ready for college, she also chose Bloomfield and it became a family affair. In fact, my niece earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Bloomfield, and her now 10-year-old son is already saying he plans to attend Bloomfield," said Jessup.
Jessup describes the small, intimate nature of the campus and its proximity to work and home as some of the key attractions for choosing to apply at Bloomfield. "When something is meant for me, I know it," said Jessup. "I was a working professional at Prudential, as was my best friend, and the schedule was such that we could attend at night and weekends. Prudential also paid for my tuition which helped remove any financial obstacles. I eventually became the first in my family to earn a college degree."
The summa cum laude graduate studied business with a concentration in marketing. "Though I worked a full-time job, I always felt very comfortable and welcome on campus. I had a great advisor, and my professors knew me by name even though I wasn't a daytime student," she said. "I never had issues with getting my questions answered. I learned of so many opportunities that are open to the students and I have never stopped being connected to my alma mater."
Jessup has previously served as the Vice President of the Bloomfield College Alumni Association (BCAA) as well as its Vice President for Events. In 2004, she and her best friend were a part of a group of alumni who reestablished the BCAA. These alumni were highly active, planning fundraising galas, coordinating food drives for the pantry, and sponsoring scholarships and specific students who needed to stay on campus during academic breaks.
Today, Jessup is a member of the BCAA's newly founded Emeritus Committee, charged with advising the new BCAA leadership that was voted into office in December 2021. "In addition to wanting to further support fundraising, the new BCAA leadership is especially interested in mentoring students, including helping them understand the breadth of the career pathways that are open to them within their majors. Together, we aim to support current students in learning about all the resources right on campus. They just need to take advantage of them, especially academic tutoring and career services, to enhance their success."
Recently retired from Prudential following a 33-year career there, Jessup is highly skilled in content editing, strategic planning, risk management, coaching and training, survey design and analysis, cash flow reconciliation, relationship management and process improvement.
Her professional and personal interests have sometimes intertwined. As part of Jessup's commitment and dedication to students, she mentored high school students as part of an Accounting Careers Awareness Program (ACAP) under the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). The one-week residential program exposed students to financial literacy, resume writing, presentations on what college is like and what majors in business they might consider. One of her mentees attended Bloomfield and earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the College. Jessup attended her graduations.
A part of the fabric of Bloomfield College, Jessup has attended all but one Bloomfield College commencement ceremony since 2003 when she earned her degree. She has served as the alumni marshal, and in 2021, she served as the commencement alumni speaker.
"Before my retirement, my last position at Prudential was as Senior Copywrite Specialist for a period of 11 years. Prior to that, I served as a Senior Financial Analyst for 19 years, and before that, I held a number of other positions," said Jessup. "I was already established and advancing at Prudential when I earned my college degree at Bloomfield, but not long after, I did receive a new promotion. Bloomfield and I have been and continue to be a great match."