top of page

Mary Chapman: Sages over 70

The NAACP Des Moines Branch would like to congratulate our very own Dr. Mary Chapman on her recognition as a 2022 Sage of 70.

Dr. Chapman is a member of our executive committee, and chair of our Women in the NAACP (WIN) Committee.

Here is what the dsmmagazine has to say about Dr. Chapman:

"Growing up poor in Alabama, Mary Chapman realized that education could help overcome poverty’s limitations. She became the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college and has dedicated her life to education, economic advancement and affordable housing.

After graduating from Drake University, Chapman spent 17 years at Des Moines Public Schools, then joined Des Moines Area Community College. In her 23 years there, Chapman formed community partnerships to help students overcome barriers to education—from day care for students with children to job training for incarcerated Iowans.

“My life purpose is to be a connector, a supporter and an inspiration to others, to help them be the best they can be,” says Chapman, 74. “Poverty and other hurdles can make it tough for students to stay in school and see the possibilities available to them. I’ve always looked for ways to help them open the doors to those possibilities.”

Chapman was widowed in her 30s and doesn’t have children, but she has mentored and supported young people in both her extended family and the community. At one point, Chapman’s 14-year-old sister and a relative’s baby were both living with her, giving her insight into the struggles faced by single, working parents.

“My greatest pride is in seeing people who I helped in some way when they were younger who are thriving adults today,” Chapman says. “I’m proud to know that I’ve been part of their journey in some way.

“And it’s not over; I’m not finished. I’m still living that purpose every day.” –Missy Keenan

Her Advice

“In the past when I was asked this question, my advice was more career-based. But now my advice is focused on living life to the fullest. Live each day embracing and valuing every moment you can with family and friends.”

“Be patient and persistent.”

“Know who you are, what you value, and what keeps you centered and grounded. Take some time every day to be sure your life reflects those values.”

Community Voices

“Although Mary is retired, she is very active in the college and the community. She continues to live a life of service, supporting activities and raising funds for those who want to gain skills and education to better their lives.” Rob Denson, president, Des Moines Area Community College, and a 2020 Sage Over 70

“Mary’s life’s work is still impacting and uplifting those in lower socioeconomic circumstances and creating pathways to a better life. She lives her life making a difference.” Marvin L. DeJear Jr., senior vice president, Greater Des Moines Partnership

“Mary is committed to our community and more than willing to share her energies and expertise. Her insights, kindness and ability to make things happen have enriched us all.” Jeff Fleming, director, the Des Moines Art Center

Among Her Achievements

  • Served Des Moines Public Schools as a teacher, education specialist and principal.

  • Served Des Moines Area Community College as executive dean of the Urban Campus and then vice president of community and workforce partnerships. Upon retiring in 2013, she was named vice president emeritus.

  • Established programs for youths and at-risk adults, most notably DMACC’s Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families.

  • Helped improve community reentry for female offenders from the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.

  • Earned a doctorate in education from Vanderbilt University.

  • Inducted in both the Iowa African American Hall of Fame and the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. "



Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page