Alumni recall their fondest NJCU memories

I Remember

By Meg Nugent Dwyer

New Jersey City University has undergone many transformations during its storied, 90-year-history. Throughout all of those changes, the institution has remained steadfast in its commitment to providing a gold-standard education and first-rate college experience to generations of students.

Here are some memories shared by NJCU alumni of the place that enabled them to realize their dreams and build meaningful lives while assuming their places in the world.

Hon. Jose L. Linares
1975, B.A., Political Science

Judge Linares is the first Hispanic in the history of the New Hersey Federal Court to serve as Chief District Court Judge. Born in Havana, and fleeing Cuba with his family as a boy, the judge is the first Cuban-born person to serve as a Federal District Court Chief in the United States. Chief Judge Linares was awarded the Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humane Letters at the May 2018 Commencement.

“Becoming Chief Judge of the New Jersey Federal District Court was never in my mind when I was at Jersey City State College. Back then, I was a young kid, not knowing what path I was going to be taking. My parents were eager for me to go to college but they couldn’t afford for me to leave the state. So, my choices were limited.

I came to NJCU, which was then called Jersey City State College, through the efforts of my high school football coach, who connected me with Jack Stephens, at the time, the football coach at the College. I met with Jack and was immediately impressed with the urban setting of the school. I eventually became captain of the football team and winning the football championship was great!

As for academics, I had an interest in pursuing a legal career but I didn’t know how to pursue one. One of my counselor suggested I major in political science and that would tell me if a legal career was for me or not. I was very much supported and helped by the faculty. The professors were extremely encouraging about the idea of me going on to law school, which, in those days, seemed an almost insurmountable goal to me. I had professors who helped me with the application to law school, and I eventually earned my juris doctor degree from Temple Law School in Philadelphia, in 1978.”

Dr. Carmela Karnoutsos
1964, B.A., History

Dr. Karnoutsos taught Social Studies at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School from 1964 until 1968, when she returned to NJCU as a history professor and the University was known as Jersey City State College. Her written works include “From Campus to Greenhouse: The Foundations of New Jersey City University” (co-written with Patrick Shalhoub, Librarian and Head of Periodicals and Government Documents Department at NJCU’s Congressman Frank J. Guarini Library).

“I remember my first day and my first class. It was called “Oral Communication” and that course took care of my stage fright, which is very important if you’re going to be a teacher. We had to do a chalk board presentation, a monologue presentation, and other kinds of stand-up-on-your-feet-and-talk activities. It was confidence building – if I could do those things, then I could stand in front of a classroom full of students.

I also remember a Shakespeare class taught by English Professor Eugene O’Sullivan. It was part instruction and part performance. When he was teaching about Macbeth, he would stand to one side and be Macbeth. And then he would turn to the other side and be Lady Macbeth. He would speak the lines from memory; he was just marvelous. He showed me how passion and enthusiasm for the material being taught could make a class come alive for students.

One college memory that really stands out was leaving a late Friday afternoon class – yes, they had classes on Friday afternoons in those days – on November 22, 1963, and hearing about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

It left me shaken and with a sense, for the first time in my life, of how fragile our world might become.”

Irving Ziegler
1956, B.S., Education

Mr. Ziegler was Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Leonia, retiring in 1990 roles during his career in the school district, including stints as curriculum coordinator, teacher, and school principal. He also served as Acting Superintendent of Schools for the Leonia district. Mr. Ziegler received NJCU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1981. His wife, Edith, is a member of the class of 1958.

“One major influence on my life during my years at the school was I met my wife, Edie, there. The first time I spotted her, I was standing in the Commons with a group of guys and there was a staircase in the area. I looked up and I saw Edie at the top of the stairs. I said to the guys, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ And they were wise-cracking, ‘Oh, yeah, so are we.’ Well, I invited her to a basketball game, our first date, and we clicked. We have been married for 60 years.

I started my college career at a very prestigious college and I did not like it. Then, I heard good things about Jersey City from friends and started visiting the area and I learned about NJCU, which was known then as New Jersey State Teachers College at Jersey City. I immediately found it to be a great place. There was a real college life presented there – clubs, functions with the International Club – and I became president of my class.

I had an English professor, Mr. Bailey. He was just a tremendous person. You could go to him with a problem and discuss it, and he would do his best to help alleviate things. He would invite groups of students to his summer place in Canada, and we would be in the deep, dark woods where you didn’t see any automobiles. Mr. Bailey guided me to expand my writing ability through assigning compositions. This was something that had been missing from my education – until Mr. Bailey.”

Eldonie S. Mason, Esq.
2002, B.A., Political Science

Ms. Mason is a lawyer and founding member of the Mason Firm , LLC. At NJCU, she was member of the University Senate. Ms. Mason was also president of her senior class in 2002 and was president of the Caribbean Students Association.

“I was born and raised in Antigua, and transferred to NJCU from Antigua State College. I walked onto campus and I felt that this is where I belonged. I got a sense of community when I needed it most.

I checked out bigger schools but they were a bit much, especially coming from a small island. I came with all of my stuff and showed up for an Instant Decision Day. A counselor told me I should definitely get into NJCU. I didn’t apply anywhere else.

I wanted to be a lawyer and there was not a formal pre-law program at NJCU but I liked the school. And I was on a mission: to get in and out of college. I needed to graduate in a couple of years because I needed to be in law school post haste! I went to the University of Miami for law school.

I have a very special attachment to NJCU – I met my best friend there.”