In the depths of the Freeman Athletic Center at Wesleyan University, past the washing machines and dryers that run on continuous loops, sits a small office. Inside that office, you likely won’t find Bob Chiapetta, the person responsible for running the elaborate Equipment Room operation. This is because he is constantly hustling around campus, keeping up with the slew of different tasks his job requires.

It is the first Saturday of home contests of the 2018 season and Wesleyan has five. The morning is cool, as the dew settles on the grass of Corwin Stadium. With the first competitions of the day beginning at 11:00 a.m., Bob has already been there for hours. He has meticulously checked that the pylons and flags are set on their correct lines, he has tested the scoreboards and the public address system, and he has already put out a couple of small fires that have come up. For a few hours before the craziness starts, he is alone and there is no place he would rather be. He takes a quick break before hopping back in his golf cart and heading to the athletic center to greet the opposing teams.

The visiting teams all know Bob and are excited to see a familiar face when they get off the bus. They know that they will be taken care of by Bob and his staff, and for that they are grateful.

Roughly 30 minutes before the first round of contests start, Bob is flying through campus on his golf cart. He makes sure everything is working in the new press box at football. Then he stops at women’s soccer to double check that his student-workers have arrived, because he knows he has to get back across campus to field hockey. He zips through the soccer field and greets his students. Bob asks how they are, has a witty joke that draws laughter out of everyone, and then he gets down to business. He explains their duties for the day, distributes the yellow “Staff” shirts and he is on his way again. Bob expects a lot out of his student workers, and because of this he gives them a lot of respect and responsibility.

The laundry list of things Bob has to check-off on game day is endless. When the games are finished, and the fields have been picked up, there is even more work for Bob in the equipment room. At Division I institutions, there are several people helping with all of these operational tasks; Bob insists he have a significant role in ensuring all of this runs smoothly at Wesleyan on his own. He doesn’t do it because he has to, he does it because he wants to.

When Bob arrived on campus in August of 1985, the Equipment Room was located in Old Fayweather Hall. Inside, there was one drier and one ‘sweat machine,’ as he referred to. There was no Equipment Room in Freeman Athletic Center and there were no student workers. Coming into his position, things were not as organized as they could have been. Without the help of students, the former head athletic trainer was responsible for both sports medicine and the equipment room, difficult enough jobs on their own. Bob immediately saw areas that he could help improve and start working towards, but he knew he had to be patient. His number one goal was to make sure that the changes were to benefit the athletes (and, at the same time, he knew he needed to be respectful of what others had setup previous to his arrival).

During his first few years, Bob made little changes here and there that started to win over the athletic department staff. One of the initial changes former Athletic Director John Biddiscombe remembers is something that Bob started doing that was quite unheard of at the time. “He would be here in the building when teams arrived home from an away trip,” says Biddiscombe. “It did not matter what time of night it was, Bob felt that the teams deserved to have someone there to welcome them back home and either congratulate them or console them.”

A huge priority of Bob’s was to ensure that female athletes were treated equally to male athletes. From his first day, he never put one gender over another. “When Bob arrived, women’s sports had established legitimacy, but they were still just starting out,” Biddiscombe remembers. “From the day Bob started, he gave all of our female student-athletes an incredible amount of respect, and he dedicated an equal amount of time towards their needs. This was during a time when this wasn’t necessarily happening across the country. It was remarkable to watch.”

Competitive by nature, Bob always wants to do the absolute best job that he can. “Bob would always say, ‘we don’t want anyone thinking that we aren’t running the best Equipment Room in all of Division III,’” Biddiscombe says. So, when Bob started noticing game day operations that coaches were having to take care of, he wanted to help. Despite not technically falling under the Equipment Room umbrella, Bob also added this to his list of duties.

“I didn’t want coaches to have to worry about the scorer’s table or the field, I wanted them to win,” Chiapetta says. “So I figured if I could focus on all of that other stuff, then they could focus on winning.”

Bob loves to win, so any part he could take in allowing coaches to focus on this, made him happy. Athletics Director Mike Whalen recalls, “I remember hugging Bob as I walked off of Andrus Field back in 2013 after we beat Williams to win our first Little Three Title in 43 years. It was then that I realized that winning the game meant more to Bob than anyone else, including myself!”

“I remember some rainy games we had back then. At the time, there was no limit on the number of footballs you could use,” former head football coach Frank Hauser recalls. “Because there was no rule, Bob would give us a brand new, dry ball, every single time we took over the ball. There aren’t many guys that would do something like that. We may have gone through 13-15 balls in a game, and that made a huge difference. Bob was always a team player.”

Not long after Bob arrived, a second Equipment Room was added, this one in Freeman, so he asked to hire student-workers. At the time, student workers were not being hired for “physical labor” jobs on campus, but he knew that having them would benefit athletics and the students themselves. Through the years, the relationships that Bob has formed with his student-workers have been one of the highlights of his career.

When hiring student workers, he doesn’t have many rules. Bob expects them to show up on time and give 100 percent. He is strict, and holds them to a high standard, but he is also very loyal to them. Bob’s biggest request of his student workers, “Please don’t make me play boss.” Women’s ice hockey player Caroline Seibold ’20 expresses, “You want to do your best work when you work for Bob. He wants everything to run smoothly, so you take pride in that and want to prove to him that you can help him achieve this goal.”

It doesn’t take long for students who work with Bob to realize how loyal, trustworthy and honest he is. “He can very directly let a student know the problem with not being on time,” head women’s basketball coach Kate Mullen expressed, “Yet, in the next sentence, he’ll provide a willing ear and shoulder to lean on for the many ups and downs of a student’s four years of college.”

His relationships with students don’t end when they graduate. either. His are lifelong connections. “Bob is on the short list of first phone calls when a former student gets that first job offer, first big promotion, or a big achievement,” says Mullen.

“The amount of lives he has touched is evident each year at the start of Reunion and Commencement Weekend. A current work-study student or student-athlete will be in the lower hallway near the equipment room looking around for Bob so they can introduce their parents to him. Then, there are the former students who are hoping Bob is working so that they can stop in and catch up.”

Bob takes a lot of pride in getting to know the student-athletes in addition to his student workers. “Even though he is extremely busy, he still makes it a point to get to know everyone, even if they aren’t work study students,” Seibold says. “He is very supportive of all of our teams here at Wesleyan. Before our games, he always walks through the hall where we are warming up to wish us luck.” She adds, “Even after a tough loss, he is still there providing words of encouragement.”

Bob has impacted nearly every person that he has connected with throughout his years at Wesleyan. From the groups of special needs students that he has included in the Wesleyan Athletics community, to the Athletic Department staff, Bob has touched hundreds of lives. “Bob is the type of guy that will sit out on his golf cart with you at a baseball or lacrosse game in the freezing cold, when he doesn’t have to be there, just so you don’t have to be sitting out there by yourself,” Assistant Athletics Director for Facilities & Operations Stephanie Scarpato explained. “He makes a point to develop relationships with everyone he crosses paths with and I am fortunate to be one of those people,” Athletic Operations & Fitness Coordinator Scott Bushey adds. “It is apparent that Bob truly cares about me as a professional, often sharing wisdom that he has acquired throughout his career here.”

Bob has a great appreciation for Scarpato, Bushey, Casey Brown and Jason Helbig, as they have helped to take extra pressure and stress off of him over the last few years and have formed a solid team. Bob expressed humbly, “I don’t want any credit for anything that I have done. I have been blessed to work with amazing colleagues throughout the years that have made my job easy. I like flying under the radar. I am proud to be a little part of history and to know that I have contributed in a big way during my time, but Wesleyan got along well before I got here and they will get along after I leave.”

Bob further explained, “To me, Wesleyan will go on for another thousand years. I hate when people say, ‘we are never going to replace so and so.’ I don’t believe that. Everyone can be replaced.” But Seibold expressed, “I know it sounds cliché, but if he quit today, there would have to be about five people or more to take over for what he does on a daily basis.”

A lot of people, including Bob, don’t realize the magnitude of what he does for Wesleyan Athletics on a daily basis. His tireless commitment to his colleagues, coaches, student workers and student-athletes is unmatched. Whalen expressed, “Bob defines Cardinal Pride. Nobody works harder to help our programs succeed than he does.” Despite Bob’s modest attitude about his contributions, it is clear that Wesleyan Athletics is beyond fortunate to have someone as uniquely dedicated as Bob Chiapetta.

Although retirement is not in the cards anytime soon, Bob did express, “I will not change the way I operate. I believe in getting things done right. I have worked too hard to build this up to where it is today, so the second I can no longer be at my best, that’s when I will step away.”

Written by: Ali Paquette

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