Thomas Edison State University celebrates 50 years of ‘shaking up’ higher ed.

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

Ewing, 76, of Marlton In the year At Commencement in June 1973, she was lucky enough to make history as the class of 69 graduates lined up in alphabetical order and her first name was Barry.

“I was scared. I was proud,” recalls Ewing, who earned an associate’s degree. “I knew it was a successful feeling.”

Ewing plans to return to downtown Trenton State School on Saturday for the 50th-anniversary celebration. About 450 graduates are expected to attend, with about 2,100 degrees awarded in the class.

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

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Located a few blocks from the state capitol, the school bears the name of the famous inventor who built a laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J., conducted research and has more than 1,093 patents in the United States for inventions such as the phonograph pioneer or perfection.

The president of the university, Merody A. Hancock, who happened to be In the year In 2018, the fourth flagship in the school’s history, the college was created to “enable” higher education. The school offers more than 100 programs from associate’s to doctoral degrees online and accepts highly qualified transfer credits, including undergraduate and military training. Undergraduate courses start every month and postgraduate courses have several start dates throughout the year. More than 12,500 students are enrolled this year.

Hancock said students are encouraged to take more than two classes at a time. Education is mostly done through guided study programs and exams. No classes are held at the small campus, she said, but if necessary, in-person classes or help can be arranged at other schools.

“It’s always driven by the needs of the students,” said Hancock, 57, who previously served as president of the State University of New York’s Empire State College. “It’s really designed to make people start at zero.”

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

Notable alumni include U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., NJ). Philadelphia singer-songwriter Lauren Hart; former Philadelphia Eagles football players Troy Vincent and John Runyon; author and professor Arthur C. Brooks; and Isaac Wright Jr., whose life inspired the ABC drama. Lifetime.

When Ewing was forced to drop out of Monmouth College to care for her young son Thomas, who had a broken leg, her dream of becoming a teacher seemed unlikely.

But then she learned about Thomas Edison and realized she wouldn’t “stick.” Earning an associate’s degree has allowed her to “see a brighter future,” she said. She can work as a substitute teacher or paraprofessional in school districts.

Ewing worked as a paraprofessional for the city of Pemberton for many years. Teachers encouraged her to pursue a degree in teaching, and in 1978 she earned a bachelor’s degree 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 Friday. I didn’t want to be of retirement age before teaching.

In the year Hart, a Gladway resident who graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in music, said getting her diploma was important, even though she didn’t really need it for her career. She left Temple in the 80s after several semesters. She took classes around the country, but didn’t have enough credits to earn a degree.

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

Hart sings the National Anthem on Saturdays. State Senator Shirley K. Turner will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

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