Marine Science. Not a day goes by, in almost twenty years, that I don't reflect back somehow on my experiences at Stockton! Whether it is to use the vast knowledge and experience I gathered in my current middle school science classroom or to fondly recount my adventures with my friends as I walk around campus moving my own children in this past week, Stockton is always there.
I didn't even want to go to college originally, it was the Naval Academy or bust. I received the nomination, two in fact, but not the appointment. My passion was always the sea, fishing and scuba diving, if I couldn't go to Annapolis I would go to Florida to be a professional fisherman. As I went into my senior year of high school I realized my future job security in fishing was all but gone. Saving pelagic fish species instead of catching them became my new goal! My parents surprised me one day and convinced me to check out the open house they saw advertised for Stockton on their way down to Atlantic City.
I went and did the tour, first stop was N-Wing where I saw these guys in tuxedos, the first student I ever met was John K. Alvarez and if you know John, you know why I remember his name! N-Wing would later become my second home from working there and provided a wealth of life long friends. To this day the song Nights in White Satin gives me flashbacks. The campus was beautiful and well laid out but, it wasn't until we broke out by majors and got to hear about our choice of study that I was hooked! It was a crowded room and the speaker up front was in a shirt and tie. He gave a brief synopsis of the program but I wasn't really paying attention because I just wasn't feeling it.
Then, just like the scene in Jaws where Quint scratches his nails down the chalkboard, he spoke! If you think this is going to be like Jacques Cousteau and all you are going to do is swim with dolphins go join the business majors across the hall! This giant of a man stood up in his worn Woolrich shirt and old boat shoes and began to tell it like it was! That was Professor Rudolf G. Arndt, we all got to know him as Rudy and I still speak to him today! You don't get that kind of closeness or attention with professors in most other places, but at Stockton, that was the norm! When I went back to high school after the open house, teachers told me not to go, that Stockton was a party school! So glad I didn't listen, it was one of the best choices I've made in my life. Little did I know how much of a turn my life would take!
I knew being a marine biologist I would never make any money but, I would be doing something I loved and would be making a difference! I finished my freshman year and came home for the summer! Two weeks later I met my wife to be at my summer job! Started dating on May 20, and were married the following May 12! Then a month and a half later my first daughter, Megan, was born! Many a Friday night I was setting up the porta crib while others were, ahh were reading poetry and writing haiku! Megan and my wife were at Stockton quite a bit.
Then in the spring of '91, my junior year, I found out that my wife was pregnant with number two! I had already scheduled classes for my fall senior semester but, that was now in question. Ultimately, I had to drop out. As we went into summer I applied to UPS and finally got hired in August as a driver. Before I could even start, August 15th my wife went into labor 4 months early. That night at 11:30pm Chloe was born. They didn't even think she would be born alive but, were they wrong! Her life spanned 3 days over 27 hours and at 2:30am August 17th she became our little angel!
After taking some time to ourselves, we decided I needed to finish school. Last week of August I went back down to Stockton during freshmen registration and explained my situation. I got all my classes back except one, Human Infancy. This was because the professor was very strict on her waiting list policy and accepted no excuses. After hearing my story, in tears, she readmitted me to the class. She still doesn't take any excuses but, does listen to reasons now. The only issue was housing! They told me not to worry, that by the first week of October something would open up.
Needless to say, that never happened and I slept in more different places than George Washington! Mostly, with my friends that had an open bed that night or in the L300 lounge but it was only supposed to be temporary! When it came time to register for spring classes I took all my classes Tuesday-Thursday so I could work back home Friday- Monday and most Wednesdays. That meant leaving Perth Amboy at 6am to get to an 8 a.m. class and getting out of a 6 p.m. class at 8 p.m. to get home by 10 p.m.. When I really had to study or write a paper I would stay down Wednesday. It was then that I became the master of the "all nighter" to get work done, my record is 70 hours set at Stockton writing a paper for Professor William Gilmore!
Then, February '92, I find out my wife was expecting again! Well this time nothing was stopping me and I made it to graduation, still in four years! That beautiful day in May of 92, my daughter Megan was walking around the field with her Fisher-Price doggie that made this crazy noise and my wife was standing there pregnant with my little Rae Rae, and my parents who started it all and my inlaws who all supported us all the way through, it was truly a joyous moment. I can not thank all of them enough for all that they did and sacrificed for me and my family!
Fast forward almost twenty years and one more child, my son Luke, and I find myself still drawn to Stockton by way of my children! Rachel is now a sophomore and Luke is a freshman! I never pushed them into Stockton, they fell in love with it all on their own! I am a Science teacher in Perth Amboy at W.C. McGinnis Middle School and I volunteer at the Jacques Cousteau Estuarine Research Reserve which is associated with the Rutgers Marine Field Station in Tuckerton. I am currently working on a project with my 21st Century Community Learning Center Marine Biology Club students and Mr. Mathew Leahey's organization SeaSavers in conjunction with the Lamont Dougherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. We are attempting to sample the Raritan Bay estuary via plankton trawling to compare quantities of plastic pieces to plankton. This has been done on the west coast and in the numerous massive garbage patches found in the middle of every ocean gyre, but never here in the busiest waterway in the Northwest Atlantic. Someday soon I will return to school, hopefully Stockton, for my masters degree and ultimately my PhD. The list of names I have left out, only due to time and space in this article, does not mean you have been forgotten, I remember everyone of you and wish to thank all of you for making my life so complete! I hope someday my grandson Niklas gets to attend Stockton, he has already visited!