Twenty Minutes: Dr. Neil Maher

Dr. Neil Maher is a popular professor in the Federated History department at NJIT, whose background many would not think to ask about. Maher grew up in a suburb of New York City near the Hudson River, spending a lot of time camping, hiking, and developing a love for the outdoors. His grandfather was actually a lawyer in Newark. His mother is a basketball coach at the age of 77 and continues to lead her team to state championships.

Dr. Maher received his degree in history from Dartmouth College and unconventionally decided to backpack throughout New Zealand, Australia, Tibet, Nepal, China, India, and Europe for a year after college with his best friend. He spent over a year just working to save up for the trip.

During his trip, Dr. Maher claims he learned the most about himself and what he really wanted to do with his life. He encourages students to take time off after college to discover their true passions and what they would be happy doing after college.

“Get out,” said Maher. “See other cultures and peoples. Don’t rush into life or a career that you think you need to do. It’s important to figure out what you’re passionate about.”

After his trip, Dr. Maher became a reporter for a college journalism wire that compiled and provided content for various college media outlets. Through this experience he discovered his love of teaching and writing. During this time, he was also heavily involved in environmental activism throughout the area.

Stemming from his love of writing are a few books Dr. Maher has written on topics specializing in urban environmental history. His latest book is called “Apollo in the Age of Aquarius,” which follows the movements of the 1960s during the Space Race and how NASA actually helped various activists in order to garner support for the space program, a program originally not supported by “hippies” and activists of the time.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Maher’s favorite class to teach is Urban Environmental History. He believes the close proximity of the city is a great asset to the college campus, offering an extended classroom as well as an escape for students.

“Students really respond when you help them discover unusual information about areas they are familiar with,” said Maher.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Maher enjoys traveling, surfing, and spending time in New York City. He says one of the best decisions he’s ever made in life is “deciding to have a family.” He mentioned that if he were much younger, he would move to Newark to raise his family since, “it look like it’s the new Hoboken.”

Dr. Maher’s new book, published by the Harvard University Press, was released last week and is available for online purchase.

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