Get to know the Clapses.
Burnett Society member Nicholas Claps graduated from Hiram Scott College, a private liberal arts college in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He obtained his permanent teaching license in Nebraska but was called home to Syracuse, New York, by the U.S. Army to be drafted in the Vietnam War. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, but the war ended before his class was called for duty. Nick then began his teaching career in New York, where he met his wife, Mary Beth. Mary Beth graduated from D’Youville College, a private university in Buffalo, New York, with a double major in psychology and education. Nick spent many years as a science teacher and also held positions in insurance and as a financial planner. Mary Beth taught for 35 years in various positions from preschool to high school.
The Clapses retired early to enjoy family, friends and traveling the world. They have toured most of Europe, the U.S. and the Polynesia area. They wrote an educational book together, and in 1999, they established a scholarship to help students in central New York attend the University of Nebraska. They call it the “New York — Nebraska Connection.”
What inspired you to become teachers?
Mary Beth: In the ’60s, a woman did not have many choices. I enjoyed working with children and babysat when I was a teenager. Also, I had several siblings to care for. Since I enjoyed working with children, this led me to teach.
Nick: When I was in middle school, I had a friend who had a chemistry set, and we enjoyed many hours experimenting. In high school, I had an outstanding chemistry teacher. That science teacher inspired me to teach.
We both highly value education. Since we did not have children, we decided to help students by setting up our scholarship at the University of Nebraska Foundation.
Teaching was my passion of all my fields of work. When anyone asks what I did before retirement, I always answer, “teacher.” We both feel teaching is a high calling in life because those who teach help others in many ways, giving them a gift for life.
We understand you wrote a book together. What can you tell us about it?
Mary Beth: The idea came more from Nick than me.
Nick: That is not 100% true. Our book, “Lessons and Suggestions for Building Your Wealth,” was written to help our 19 nieces and nephews, which, by the way, has grown to 50-plus nieces and nephews. Mary Beth helped immensely (i.e., wrote entire sections of the book, such as “Improve Your Status”) and was instrumental in every aspect of creating the book. She loves letting me do most of the talking.
The book explains a lot of what we learned in life. We start the introduction with: “These are things we wish someone had told us early in life.” Saving money is a big part of having a better life. We wanted children as young as 10 to gain the information, as well as adults. Choices in life are also important. For example, we discuss the impact when choosing between a want and a need when making a decision. The book references many practical resources.
What do you think the future holds for the next generation?
Mary Beth: Keeping oneself informed will be a key to making correct decisions for yourself and your family. You need to read and listen to a variety of sources. We have a lot of smart people, and I can see we are solving a lot of problems as we move forward. There are many new fields and many recent advancements being made. The future looks bright.
Nick: Fortunately, we are doing more to clean up our environment. We are exploring the widespread use of electric vehicles, increasing recycling, decreasing carbon emissions, finding alternate forms of energy, exploring the depths of the oceans, etc.
It is also encouraging to see new technology with 3D printing for housing, medicine and other fields. I think we can all agree that the next 10 years will be much different, but in a better way.