Jacki Headley created her way through life.

“She was an incredible example,” said her husband, Graham Hutton. “She had a great work ethic and if there was ever a question about what was right and wrong, if you just asked, ‘What would Jacki do?’—you’d get the answer.”

The pair met in Mazatlán, Mexico, in 1975. He was a British PhD student conducting research in marine biology. Distinguished Alumna Headley (BA, Art, ’73) was a recent Chico State graduate teaching at a bilingual private school.

Within the year, he’d follow the inventive woman who captured his heart back to the place she loved most—Chico.

His future wife immediately started making and selling goods in local gift stores, including the pillows that would launch the art major’s company, Woof & Poof, into 40 years of national success. She was also the brainchild of Made in Chico, a store that helps local artists sell their goods.

In addition to running two local businesses and serving as a member of the city’s Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board, Headley had a tremendous influence on campus. She spoke to Chico State’s entrepreneur students; worked with Scott McNall at the University’s Institute for Sustainable Development to bring prominent speakers to campus for its early This Way to Sustainability conferences; and served on the board for The Janet Turner Print Museum, named for her former professor and mentor.

“She loved what she did,” said Hutton. Tears collected as he described his wife, who was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in April 2011. “She was an incredibly hard worker, had complete integrity, and was totally honest.”

Since her death in 2012, he’s found comfort and reward in volunteering every October at the Milton Marks Family Camp near Calistoga, which offers support, counseling, and restorative activities for parents with brain tumors and their families.

“It can be very isolating to have a terminal illness in the family,” said Hutton, who described how proud Headley was of their two sons, Christopher, 35, an attorney in the US Navy, and Oliver, 32, a freelance graphic designer.

“She was never too busy to be involved in a big way,” he said. “I know a lot of the reason they have excelled is because of her example.”

Students admire the SHAKER exhibit by Marek Walczak & Wesley Heiss in the Jacki Headley University Art Gallery.

Students admire the SHAKER exhibit by Marek Walczak & Wesley Heiss in the Jacki Headley University Art Gallery. (Photo by Jessica Bartlett)

To honor his wife’s life as an entrepreneur with a passion for creativity and community, Hutton made a capital gift in 2015 to support the new Arts and Humanities Building (ARTS). He named the Jacki Headley University Art Gallery, solidifying her legacy as a force who shaped the Chico Experience in so many ways.

His favorite part of the new building is the courtyard lined with glass-walled ceramic and glassblowing studios. It exposes everyone—not just art students—to the making of art.

“I love watching people work and watching things being made,” he said, evoking a picture of him watching Headley create over the years.

“Looking through the windows of glass may inspire someone to attempt a creative pursuit outside their major or career,” said the former marine biologist, now an artist in his own right.

Inspired by Headley, he started a wholesale kitchen and gift products business, built the couple’s Chico home, and is currently finishing a second house in Mendocino.

“Here I am, a marine biologist, and now I’m a woodworker and furniture maker and wannabe sculptor,” said Hutton, whose gift gives faculty and staff the resources to keep the ARTS building at the forefront of technology-driven, hands-on education.

Headley’s gallery provides a platform for new and established artists to showcase their work—a role she herself played in so many people’s lives.

“I think if Jacki had a message for students and artists, it would be, ‘Don’t just create work, sell your work and be self-sufficient,’” he said.