Thomas A. State University. Edison, Formed to “Create a Radical Change” in Higher Education, Celebrates 50 Years

Retired teacher Elizabeth “Pete” Ewing still remembers the excitement when she walked on stage at Thomas A. Edison State University, the first person to receive a diploma from the school, in nearly 50 years.

Ewing, 76 years old, from Marlton, She was lucky to make history at the opening ceremony in June 1973 because the class of 69 alumni was lined up in alphabetical order, and her maiden name was Barry.

“I was scared. I was proud,” remembers Ewing, who has an associate’s degree. “I knew it was a sense of accomplishment.”

Ewing plans to return to public school in downtown Trenton on Saturday to celebrate its 50th anniversary. About 450 graduates are expected to attend, of which approximately 2,100 will be awarded for the class.

Thomas A. Edison State College was established in 1972 by the New Jersey State Legislature to serve mostly adult learners returning to college while working or raising families. It is designed to provide flexibility and give students credit for demonstrating college-level learning that can happen outside of the classroom.

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Located a few blocks from the state capitol, the school is named after the famous inventor who built a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he conducted research and pioneered or perfected inventions such as the phonograph, resulting in more than 1,093 patents in the United States. States.

University President Merodie A. Hancock, who became In 2018, the fourth leader in the school’s history, said the college was set up to “change” higher education. The school offers more than 100 programs, from associate’s to doctoral degrees, online and accepts most eligible transfer credits, including prior education and military training. Undergraduate courses start monthly, while postgraduate courses have multiple start dates during the year. More than 12,500 students are enrolled this year.

Hancock said students are encouraged to attend no more than two classes at a time. Learning is mostly done through guided study programs and exams. She said there are no classes on the small campus, but that in-person lessons or help can be arranged at other schools if needed.

“It’s always supposed to align with students’ needs,” said Hancock, 57, who previously served as president of SUNY Empire State College. “It was really designed to stop getting people to start from scratch.”

Hancock said even starting over the years has been moved through the fall to accommodate older students who may have children graduating from high school or college in the spring. This year’s graduates are expected to travel from 37 countries, and from Chile, Saint Lucia and the United Arab Emirates.

Notable members of the House of Representatives include US Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., NJ); Philadelphia Flyers anthem singer Lauren Hart. former Philadelphia Eagles players Troy Vincent and John Runyon; Author and Professor Arthur C. Brooks; and Isaac Wright Jr., whose life inspired the ABC drama for life.

Ewing said her dreams of becoming a teacher seemed unlikely when she had to drop out of then-Monmouth College to take care of her young son, Thomas, who had a broken leg.

But then she learned about Thomas Edison and realized she “wasn’t stuck”. She said her associate’s degree enabled her to “see a brighter future”. She can work as a substitute teacher or professional assistant in school districts.

Ewing worked in the town of Pemberton for several years as a professional assistant. Teachers encouraged her to earn a teaching degree and she received her BA in 1978 from the College of New Jersey. She taught for 25 years before retiring in 2003.

“I didn’t want to give up on my goal,” Ewing said in an interview on Friday. “I didn’t want to be of retirement age before I could teach.”

Hart, of Gladwin, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1996, said getting her degree was important, even though she didn’t really need it in her career. She left Temple in the 1980s after several semesters. She took classes while traveling around the country, but doesn’t have enough credits to get a degree.

“It was in my mind that I had always wanted a college degree,” said Hart, a mother of four.

Hart will sing the national anthem at Saturday’s festivities. State Senator Shirley K. Turner has an honorary doctorate in humanistic letters.

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