Powerhouse couple credits success in life and work to alma mater
By Bryan Hay
Whether it’s attending sports events on campus or reminiscing about their life-grounding experiences at Lafayette, Stephanie ’05 and Marvin ’07 Snipes II never stray far from their alma mater.
While different paths and experiences led them to Lafayette, both agree that the College prepared them academically, professionally, and socially for successful, satisfying careers.
During a recent chat around the dining room table at their home in Montclair, N.J., their 18-month-old daughter, Meadow; German shepherd, Xyno; and Pomeranian, Shadeaux; at their sides, Stephanie and Marvin looked backward and forward to coax memories and express their dreams for Lafayette.
Stephanie (chemical engineering) attended Kent Place School, a private college-preparatory day school for girls where her academic adviser would help match her interests with appropriate undergraduate majors and suggest colleges.
“His advice was that you don’t want to pick a school and then decide you want to major in a program that’s not offered there,” she says. “Be prepared.”
Always excelling in math and chemistry, Stephanie looked at schools that offered both and focused on pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. During her college search, Lafayette, which surfaced as a leading engineering school, had consistently ranked high in engineering nationally.
“Lafayette was very good at sending me material that was tailored to my interests in engineering and information about diversity at the school,” she says. “I went there with my mother and aunt to attend an engineering open house, and we all loved the campus. We met Dr. Javad Tavakoli, then head of the chemical engineering department. He told us that if we needed help with funding to let him know.”
Lafayette topped her list. Growing up in Maplewood, N.J., she was interested in getting away for college but not too far away. Stephanie sent in her deposit, and the next week she received an acceptance letter from Princeton.
“Am I supposed to go to Princeton?” she recalls asking herself. In the end, Lafayette won out because of its strengths in both liberal arts and engineering.
Marvin Snipes’ entry into Lafayette was through athletics. He spent a majority of his childhood in Philadelphia and attended public schools in the city, where a coach introduced him to Bob Heffner, a former member of the football coaching staff at Lafayette.
“So coach Heffner traveled down from Easton to Philadelphia. We sat on the couch, talked about the benefits of Lafayette, and he invited me on an official visit to the school,” Marvin recalls. “I loved everything about him. During my visit to school, I loved it and committed to play football right away.”
A defensive end, he was part of three championship teams that beat Lehigh every year except his first year. “I was a member of some great football teams during a great time in the program’s history,” Marvin says.
Stephanie and Marvin knew each other as students at Lafayette. Their relationship matured and developed after meeting again on a double date after graduation when they both were working in the Lehigh Valley.
“My wife is way more interesting than me,” Marvin laughs.
They make quite a power couple.
Stephanie has held multiple positions as a civilian employee for the Department of Defense at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County, N.J., where the Army develops armaments and munitions. She’s currently a reliability engineer.
Lafayette prepared her well for her career, although she found her first two years unchallenging compared to the workload and rigors she faced at Kent Place.
“I didn’t have to study, got good grades, and did well on the SATs,” she says. “Then chemical engineering hit the first semester of my junior year,” Stephanie recalls. “The experience humbled me. They threw everything at us. I had to learn how to ask for help.”
An independent worker, she found herself having to work and study with others.
“It prepared me for the real world,” she says. “Lafayette got me out of my comfort zone and my shell.”
Marvin basked in the liberal arts program, which exposed him to many interests. Law school and playing professional football were his initial goals.
“I learned a lot, and many professors, because of the small class sizes, took to me and helped shape my thoughts, writing, and speech,” he says. “It was helpful.”
Unlike kids at his wife’s prep school, a good deal of Marvin’s classmates went on to state schools and community colleges.
“My counselor in high school questioned me about going to Lafayette based on the academic caliber of the school and past experiences of some students from my high school,” he says. “She didn’t think I was going to do well, even though I excelled academically.”
Stephanie quickly interjects, “Your GPA was better than mine when I graduated.”
Marvin held several jobs after graduation, including coaching football at Kutztown University and as manager for a construction company, before settling into insurance.
“It all transitioned back to Lafayette when I attended a football networking event and was approached by a great friend (Matthew Potter ’07) about a new venture he was involved with in starting an insurance agency with one of the largest property and casualty insurance companies in the United States, which wanted to expand distribution on the East Coast,” Marvin says. “He thought I had the right personality for insurance, so I got my license, and six months later we opened.”
The enterprise soon became the fastest-growing agency in the nation for this insurance giant, with locations and distribution throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
About four years ago, Marvin transitioned into starting his own independent brokerage, Valor Insurance–The Snipes Group. Marvin launched his firm with some of his colleagues and other key partners such as four-time Super Bowl champ Matt Millen, a TV football analyst and former CEO of the Detroit Lions. The agency’s flagship location is a 6,000-square-foot space in Easton’s City Hall. Marvin operates a satellite location in Roseland, N.J.
“I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without Lafayette,” Marvin says. “My career in insurance sales is not something I thought about in college. But it’s so diverse and complex, with so many niches in what you can provide. You interact with many industries and professions.”
With a smile, Marvin adds, “I invite any of my fellow alumni and classmates to learn more about my business at TheSnipesGroup.com.”
Stephanie enjoyed a smooth transition into Lafayette, which shares many of the same cultural dynamics as Kent Place. But she knew others who experienced a culture clash on campus.
“Many people came from cities where they were the majority and encountered a different culture at Lafayette,” she says. “In my personal experience, I found many members of the faculty supportive and have made close relationships that lasted beyond graduation.”
For Marvin, football was his fraternity.
“It was a diverse team, all 100 of us,” he says. “It was a bit of a culture shock for me, but football helped. The Posse program also helped bring together different viewpoints.”
Because of his football commitments, Marvin couldn’t take advantage of all of the cultural opportunities, but he joined Brothers of Lafayette and Association of Black Collegians.
Stephanie and Marvin would like to be part of an effort to get more people to come back to campus. They have friends who had mixed experiences at Lafayette and just moved on with their lives, yet the couple believes there’s untapped power and support in the Lafayette community.
“The network is strong,” Stephanie says. “Many successful people have come through Lafayette. Those things should be celebrated.”
Meadow draws their attention away for a moment. She may not know it, but her parents can see her in maroon and white. She’ll be a member of the Class of 2040, as strange as that sounds, and Lafayette is, of course, on the top of their list.
“It’s special, the Lafayette connection,” Marvin says. “All of my major relationships in my life—my marriage, my work relationships, my personal relationships—they all stem from Lafayette.”