A 50th wedding anniversary is quite a milestone, an event that calls for a one-of-a-kind celebration and demands the kind of gift-giving that stumps most families. What could the happy couple possibly need? What would be special enough?
Such were the questions faced by family and friends when Mary Ann (Leonard) ’70 and Michael ’70 Siklosi were ready to celebrate five decades of happily married life.
“I was debating what to do,” says Karen Raraigh, the Siklosi’s daughter. “It was my aunt who came up with the idea of making a gift to Montclair in my parents’ honor. We all knew that they met at Montclair, and that for years they have been part of annual get-togethers with their Montclair friends. It is amazing that they’ve been able to stay in touch over the years.”
“When I was young, I used to wear my mom’s Montclair State College sweatshirt,” Karen continues with a laugh. “I should have kept it – now it is vintage!”
The $5,000 gift, raised from the Siklosi, Raraigh and Gorman families, will support awards for students majoring in chemistry or biochemistry who have excelled in their General Chemistry I and II courses. The generous contribution will make it possible to award $500 a year for ten years.
What could be a more fitting way to commemorate a lifelong romance that began in freshman-level chemistry courses at the university?
Chance played a role in the Siklosi’s story. From an early age, Michael planned to attend Montclair. “I happened to read in the newspaper that Montclair was having an open house for prospective students who wanted to become teachers,” he recalls. “Even though I was only in the 8th grade I found a way to go to the event. I fell in love with the campus and boy, was I annoyed that I would have to wait another four years to enroll!”
By the time he graduated high school, Michael’s plan to study chemistry at Montclair was well in place. For Mary Ann, however, applying to Montclair was a last-minute decision. “I was in the secretarial track at my high school,” she says. “But at the last minute I decided to give college a try, and Montclair was just a few miles from home. Although my senior year was a scramble to meet college requirements, I learned that I liked chemistry and was good at it, too.”
The two dated throughout college and married a year after graduation. Michael was in graduate school at Purdue University the year prior to getting married when Mary Ann learned that the Montclair chemistry department was looking for a new secretary. Her high school training served her well: she got the job. After marriage, she enrolled at Purdue and successfully pursued a master’s degree herself. She taught chemistry to nursing majors at Purdue for three years while Michael earned his Ph.D.
Michael joined Procter & Gamble and Mary Ann started teaching at the University of Cincinnati, but soon she joined Procter & Gamble as well. The company was a good fit for both, and they spent the remainder of their careers there.
Both feel that their Montclair education positioned them for career success. “At Purdue, I was one of six with Montclair undergraduate degrees,” Michael notes. “We were every bit as well-equipped as classmates who had studied at elite institutions around the world – in fact, the Montclair group had a 100% Ph.D. completion rate! I think that is because Montclair’s faculty were so devoted to teaching.”
In 2023, Montclair recognized Mary Ann and Michael, and the gift that honors them, with a bench plaque tribute on the Alumni Green. In May, the couple attended the College of Science and Mathematics Chemistry Awards ceremony via Zoom, offering remarks and letting students know how much Montclair means to them. They are planning an in-person visit to campus in the fall.
“We were so surprised by it all,” Mary Ann says. “We spent some of the best years of our lives at Montclair, and we still count Montclair classmates among our closest friends.”
Mary Ann is glad that the award will recognize chemistry students and hopes the funds will help them financially. “There is so much more to chemistry than working in a lab,” she points out. “At Procter & Gamble I went from lab and consumer work researching products to Information Management conducting patent, technical and business literature searching.”
Michael would like to encourage other alumni to support the university. “There is no better opportunity for making a difference than by supporting students at Montclair,” he says. “The students are hardworking and smart, and deserve a high quality, financially accessible education – the kind of education that Montclair offers.”