Risa Zwerling Wrighton

| Scene Reporter

Risa Wrighton, wife of Chancellor Wrighton, founded Home Plate to give students the chance to enjoy home-cooked meals.


Risa Zwerling Wrighton says she is enjoying college now more than ever. And she’s not even a student anymore.

To understand how dynamic a person Mrs. Wrighton is, one only has to look back on her past careers. After graduating from Barnard and the University of Maryland at Baltimore, she started out as a social worker. She then got another master’s degree from the Olin School of Business and worked as a direct marketer for Citicorp. When Citicorp downsized due to the economy, she went to work for Mangellan Health Group, designing health programs for large employers.

Mrs. Wrighton remembers reading about Chancellor Wrighton’s arrival at Washington University in 1995, a time when she was working at Magellan and raising her two daughters as a single mother. She thought, “Wow, what an interesting person. How am I ever going to meet anybody like that…it’s just not going to happen.”

Despite her doubts, Mrs. Wrighton made it happen. She says she “wrote him a letter using my skills as a direct marketer…saying that I had read about him in the newspaper and how he sounded like such an interesting person.” As someone not affiliated with the University, she offered to help the chancellor get to know St. Louis.

The then-Ms. Zwerling went on her first date with the chancellor to Cardwell’s in Clayton. To this day, the Wrightons still enjoy going to Cardwell’s when they want to take a break from their busy lives.

When they first began dating, Mrs. Wrighton recalled, the chancellor would come over to her house to visit. She says that Chancellor Wrighton would “throw [a] Certs [breath mint] through the door, and the dog would hear it and then go running and have the candy…then Mark knew that the dog was eating a candy and wouldn’t bite him.” While Mrs. Wrighton said that the chancellor was not always a dog lover, he now can be seen walking their golden retriever, Grace, early in the mornings. When hosting parties, Mrs. Wrighton prefers to have the dogs around to help create a friendly atmosphere and, as she says, “set a different tone.”

Mrs. Wrighton is also active in the St. Louis community. She helps students get acquainted with both the city and Wash. U. through the program she started, Home Plate, which pairs Wash. U. students with local St. Louis families for a home-cooked meal.

According to Mrs. Wrighton, “being a freshman is a huge job.” It is her hope that through Home Plate she can give all students the opportunity to take a break from their newfound responsibilities. In doing so she said she hopes to allow the students to “be [kids] again.”

Not only does Mrs. Wrighton help students find balance in their school life by offering them the opportunity to participate in Home Plate, but she also helps a select few in the College of Arts and Sciences to balance their curriculum through her role as an advisor.

While it may seem that many Wash. U. students are dead set on a career, Mrs. Wrighton says she “almost prefers when a student is undecided…because there is lots of time for lots of different things in life.”

It’s this positive attitude that allows Mrs. Wrighton to follow her passions and help many different people.

When pairing up families and students in Home Plate, Mrs. Wrighton looks for the best possible matches, ones that will make both the students and the families happy. Given her ability to make people feel welcomed, it’s no wonder she’s a great match for Wash. U.

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