The Thoughts of NJIT Students 50 Years Ago

Seventy-four alumni from the class of 1967 have written biographies reflecting upon their lives since graduating from the Newark College of Engineering, now known as the New Jersey Institute of Technology. As time moves forward, things are often left behind: pieces of pop culture, clothing trends, technology, and the events that took place while they lived “in the moment.” What stands the hands of time however, are the characteristics of those living through those time periods.

“I have to admit, there were times during those tests that I sat in a trance, having no clue and wondering what everyone else was doing, both dreading the fall of the axe and at the same time looking forward to the final buzzer and my escape from the ordeal,” said Robert J. Gnerre, a Mechanical Engineer major.

For some, what they remember from NCE are not the only the dread from taking tests or the stress from doing homework the next day, but the joy they partook in from activities. George Findura, EE, fondly remembers the Broadway show performed in the auditorium, which he commented on saying, “NCE wasn’t known for the performing arts, but it was special for me”. Findura humorously remembers a day when he and his friends wanted to go swimming in the pool, but were greeted by kayaks instead! Although he had to take an early retirement due to his circulatory problems and bipolar disorder, he has an incredible rock and support group from his wife and her family. “She is a wonderful person, and I am lucky to have met her.”

The class of ’67 underwent a transformative experience during their time at NCE/NJIT, and upon graduating, they truly had the chance to find themselves. The experience of job hunting and switching between careers was mentioned repeatedly throughout every biography.

One difference between college students then and now would be the urgency to secure a job upon graduating. Many graduates of ’67 had multiple jobs lined up and did not seem to stress the difficulty of finding a job, let alone one that was well-paying. There were no mentions of having to pay back student loans or having to deal with that kind of financial burden. Alumni did not mention the economy as often in comparison to the conversations college students would have post-2008, when the stock market crashed.

Despite graduating with engineering degrees, many alumni found themselves in high-ranking positions in fields like project management, sales, financial planning or marketing. Some went and acquired a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), while others found themselves working in management. In fact, a little more than half of the graduates dropped their field of study to pursue different careers. However, this did not occur immediately. Many graduates spent most of their early years within their initial engineering focus, it was not until they had gained enough experience that they began to climb the ladder of success.

Practically every graduate bounced around job positions before being able to retire. Gary Gajewski, B.S. Electrical Engineering, was just one of the alumni who had encountered multiple career paths. “I held several jobs over the years including at Hughes Aircraft where I was a Member of Technical Staff (MTS) and then a Group Head (7 yrs),” said Gajewski. “Subsequently, at IBM I was a Staff Engineer (4 yrs), CTEC/Program Manager (5 yrs), small businesses/VP (4 yrs). SAIC/AVP (6 yrs), SC Research Authority/VP (16 years).”

Most alumni are what you would consider retired in the traditional sense. Many have built families that they stay close with as most of them have and are expecting grandchildren. Some of their grandchildren are gearing up to take part in the college experience just as they did in ’67. The enthusiasm in finding out they were grandparents was something that stuck out. Continuing the cycle and having the opportunity to take part in their grandchildren’s lives is something many spoke excitedly about.

In the fifty years that have passed since departing from NCE, many of the alumni have gained unforgettable experiences shared in their bios. Each biography is a reminder as to how complex life can be at times.

When graduating and moving on to their new lives after school, they had expectations and dreams to follow through with. Whether this is unfortunate is up to the individual, but it would seem as though the alumni have enjoyed their journey thus far and continue to look forward to what the future brings.

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