Chapman President Daniele Struppa says his children are the most important thing in his life
“I love being a dad,” Daniele Struppa says of his fatherhood.
His children, 13-year-old Arianna and 11-year-old Athena, are definitely the light of his life.
“I love playing with them, helping them with schoolwork and taking them to Disneyland,” he says. “Every night we have storytime and the good night kiss. When I go to the dentist or to the doctor for my annual exam, they give me a stuffed animal.”
Every day they visit Starbucks, which they jokingly call “Starbocchio” in tribute to their Italian roots.
Daniele’s Italian Heritage
Daniele was born in Milan, Italy to civil lawyers Giuseppe and Emilia Struppa.
“We had a simple life and a very happy childhood,” he shares. “There wasn’t a lot of money for shoes and clothes, but my younger sister and I had free access to the book store and the classical music store. Our parents were serious intellectuals, and we had a huge library in our home.”
“Mother stopped working when I was born, so she could devote her life to us,” Daniele says. “She helped us tremendously in high school with our studies, and dad, who loved math, encouraged me to explore it.”
Daniele went on to earn his laurea in mathematics from the University of Milan in 1977 and his doctorate degree in mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1981. He returned to Italy to fulfill his one-year military obligation and joined the University of Milan as an assistant professor of mathematics.
But, America was calling, and in 1988, Daniele joined George Mason University in Virginia as a mathematics professor, later becoming Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and then Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, composed of 19 departments. Accolades and honors accrued for this brilliant man, as he was preparing for his next adventure.
In 2006, Daniele saw an opening for provost at Chapman University. He interviewed with then-president Jim Doti and says he knew when they met he would get the job when he saw a photo of Jim mountain climbing.
The two immediately bonded.
“I had tremendous respect for Jim right away,” Daniele says, “because when you mountain climb, you sacrifice for a long-term goal. It’s not about you, it’s about the team, and the same thing can be applied to the success of a university.”
Finding the Perfect Mate
While at George Mason, Daniele met Lisa Sparks, a fellow professor of communication at the university.
“I liked her, but knew she was happily married, so when I heard she was getting a divorce and I was on leave and climbing Mt. Elbrus in Russia, I rushed to Moscow, where she was working with a research team, and gave her a surprise kiss in Red Square.”
An astonished Lisa remembers thinking, “He’s Italian. Just enjoy the kiss.”
They parted, as Daniele was on his way to Tibet for two months, but he stopped in Doha, Qatar to order flowers delivered at regular intervals to Lisa.
“I didn’t want her to forget me,” he says.
Reuniting, Daniele popped the question two months later while the two were climbing Mt. Cotopaxi in Equador. He dug the Tiffany box out of his backpack and proposed on the spot. She said yes. The date was December 28, 2002.
The marriage took place December 19, 2003, in Calabria, Italy, on the Tyrrenian Sea.
Wanting children right away, Arianna was born in Virginia in 2004, with Athena following in 2007 after they arrived in Orange County.
Life in Orange County
Provost at Chapman for one year, Daniele then became chancellor, where he remained until Doti retired and he became president in September, 2016.
Lisa, a Ph.D. Chapman professor in communication, was elected by the faculty in 2015 to be Dean of Communication. Together, the two represent Chapman in a passionate and engaging way, none more so than Daniele.
“The community has been incredibly warm and welcoming to me,” he says. “It is an honor to represent an institution of this quality.”
The family has a busy life, but there is always family time. Daniele says of Lisa:
“The day I married Lisa was the best day of my life! She is a fabulous partner and a very loving mother. And, I’m very proud that she’s running for a seat on the Orange County Board of Education, something she cares about deeply.”
Lisa, in turn, says, “Daniele is awesome! He is very supportive of me and is an amazing father. The girls are the light of his life. I think they won the parent lottery!”
The girls chirp in:
“Dad is cuddly and plays with us a lot,” Athena says. “And, he helps us with our homework,” Arianna adds. “He is always smiling and doing things that make people happy.”
Both girls have been making commercials for years.
“They sing, act and dance,” Daniele says. “Arianna is a good runner and fantastic rock climber, and Athena is great in math. Both girls play piano. They both want to attend Chapman. They love it there.”
Additional family includes 32-year-old Alessandro Struppa, Daniele’s son from his first marriage, who lives with his wife Kaitlyn and one-year-old son Adrian in Florida. And, Lisa’s daughter, 21-year-old Elena Bethea, is a student at Chapman.
This father is going to have a very loving Father’s Day. And, rightly so.
“My family is the most important thing in my life,” Daniele concludes, smiling.