When Mary Sconiers-Chapman first arrived in Des Moines, she was a fresh-faced Drake University freshman hoping to land a teaching job once she graduated. More than 40 years later, Sconiers-Chapman’s career has become dedicated to improving the community she now calls home.

Raised in South Bend, Ind., Sconiers-Chapman would receive a degree in elementary education from Drake University and begin teaching, and later serving as a principal, in the Des Moines Public Schools. In 1990, Sconiers-Chapman made the jump to higher education, becoming executive dean of Des Moines Area Community College. In 2000, she was promoted to vice president of strategic partnerships for the school.

While Sconiers-Chapman officially retired from her position in 2013, her community-focused work and vision for a better Des Moines have not stopped. 

“I’m focused on creating opportunities for teens and young adults, and re-engaging them with the American dream,” said Sconiers-Chapman, who remains active in a program called Opportunity Nation that works to eliminate roadblocks to individuals’ success in communities across the nation. “We’re looking at where there are gaps, what resources we can provide to fill those, and what issues we can advocate for to help young people succeed in our city.”

Sconiers-Chapman’s opportunity-centric endeavors have been a focus of hers for years. They have been influenced by a local activist, Evelyn Davis, with whom Chapman worked side by side to create the community center that now bears Davis’ name.

“There have been so many people that were supportive and served as a mentor to me, and one of those was Evelyn Davis,” said Sconiers-Chapman. “She wanted to uplift the marginalized and disenfranchised, and managed to do that while also engaging with stakeholders and partnerships to make sure these programs were viable.”

Sconiers-Chapman assisted in the development of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, engaging the local community and developing programming that would best suit the needs of the people who needed assistance. For Sconiers-Chapman, continuing to advance communities and help their members is a necessity.

It is what kept her in Des Moines for all these years.

“My goal every day is to identify and establish relationships that can help to advance the community or that individual, as well as increase the awareness of the opportunities that people have laid out in front of them and have those conversations about what needs to be done to serve those who need it,” said Sconiers-Chapman. “That’s what I love about Des Moines: the volunteerism, the willingness to work in and on the community. I got hooked on it.”

Three Areas of Influence

  • Working as a longtime educator and principal in Des Moines Public Schools.
  • Serving as an executive dean for Des Moines Area Community College.
  • Working with the local community to serve those in need through Opportunity Nation and work with fellow activist Evelyn Davis.