Alumni Spotlight: Three Generations of Cappas
Three generations of Cappas have IU East degrees, but the family’s bound together by more than blood, it’s the university.
Jeff Cappa (AS’98) went to work for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department straight out of high school and ascended to sheriff in January after a landslide victory in the general election. But for most of Cappa’s 30-year career he was without a college degree.
“Dad wanted me to go to college right out of high school when I got hired by the sheriff’s department at 18,” Cappa said. “But like any other typical 18-year-old, I thought I knew everything I needed to know.”
Cappa, now 49, worked for more than a decade before heeding the advice of his father, Dan Cappa (AS’88), and two veterans of the sheriff’s department.
Jeff enrolled at Indiana University East to pursue a degree in criminal justice while working full-time and raising his three children with his wife, Susan. In making the choice on where to attend school, he again turned to his father.
“Dad had a lot of influence in the decision,” Jeff said.
Much like his son, Dan, 76, attended IU East to further his education while working full-time and earned a degree in business administration. Now retired, he worked at Belden, one of Wayne County’s largest employers, for 43 years.
“For me there was the opportunity for continuing education as related to my job at that time,” Dan said. “It was a resource I had in the community where I didn’t have to drive out of the community.
“It was a single building at that time, and by far the students were nontraditional students because we worked during the day and took evening classes.” Today, the IU East link between father and son has expanded to a third generation.
All three of Jeff and Susan’s children also attended IU East; two graduated from there in recent years, too.
Twenty-nine-year-old Brandon (BS’05), a patrolman and member of the hostage negotiation team for the Richmond Police Department, and 25-year-old Adam(BS’09), a Christian recording artist, who went from being a local musician to recently signing a national record deal and touring across the country, earned general studies degrees from IU East. Courtney (BS’10), 23, attended IU East before graduating at the Bloomington campus with a degree in sociology. She now works at Baumgartner Commercial in Richmond with aspirations of attending graduate school.
“It’s neat because we go to sporting events together,” Brandon said. “We’re all alumni.
It gives us another bond other than being brother-sister, things of that nature.
“I tell people, pretty much, that when I came out of the womb I was an IU fan,” he said.
“We’ve been a Hoosier household.”
IU also shaped the very beginnings of Jeff and Susan’s family.
“Bloomington is kind of a special place for me because that’s where my wife and I got engaged,” Jeff said. “She was a student down there. We got married when we were 19. It’s a special place for her and I to go in the fall because that’s also when we got engaged. So we go down for Homecoming with the kids and spend time with family.”
Family matters to the Cappas. In fact, they all remain in Richmond, even though Adam now splits his time between Richmond and Nashville, Tenn., in pursuit of his music career. They still make time for family meals and enjoy going to Italian restaurants for dinner while Adam, also the family comedian, provides the laughs.
Jeff says his experiences attending college as a nontraditional student contributed to the message he and his wife repeatedly sent their children: College is the only option.
“The decision to go to college was pretty much an understood agreement between all of us,” Courtney said. “Mom and Dad expected us to go and get the degrees. We knew that was expected and anticipated doing that.”
She said IU East provided an effective and affordable option. Neither she nor her siblings ever considered another university.
“I am just appreciative of being able to stay here in town my first year and get prerequisites out of the way for a much lesser cost than going to a more expensive state school,” she said.
Adam said watching IU East transform into a full-fledge baccalaureate and master’s degree institution was appealing, too.
“I saw the options of classes grow. I saw the ages of students decrease so there was a wider variety of students coming in,” he said. “There were a lot more high school students getting involved.”
Jeff and Susan say they are proud of what their children have accomplished.
“Susan and I are proud of all of them,” Jeff said. “Every day they surprise me with their maturity and how good of a person each of them is.
“Susan and I were very proud the day Courtney graduated because we felt like we had actually accomplished something we had set out as parents to do,” he said. “I didn’t listen to my father, and I had to do it the hard way.”
The Cappas say their relationship with IU and IU East will continue. Jeff is past president of the IU East Alumni Association Board and plans to continue his service to the organization.
He hopes his children will find ways to serve the university in the future, too.
“I wanted to give back to a college that was good to me,” Jeff said. “I got to know a lot of the professors and a lot of the students out there. It was an opportunity also to help me also provide for my kids, and my wife as well. It’s still a learning experience. It’s a great networking opportunity.
“It’s more like a family now,” he said.
But Jeff said there is still one missing piece to the puzzle.
“Susan didn’t graduate,” he said. “I’m trying to get her back. So she will be the last one in the family to get a college degree.”