When local officials and advocacy groups first proposed establishing a public community college in Monmouth County in the 1960’s, the idea was not a popular one. Many believed there would not be enough demand to sustain a two-year institution, with Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) already operating in West Long Branch.
Others thought it would be too expensive, or obtrusive, or doubted the college’s ability to provide a high-quality education. Locally, community members began calling it “The Impossible Dream,” a reference to the impractical, overly idealistic ambitions of literary hero Don Quixote.
Through the tireless efforts of local supporters, however, including the Northern Monmouth Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the League of Women Voters, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders agreed to support the initiative. On July 18, 1967, the freeholders signed a resolution formally establishing Brookdale Community College in Monmouth County.
In the five decades since, Brookdale has awarded tens of thousands of degrees and provided countless hours of professional training to generations of local students, becoming one of the largest and most highly regarded community colleges in the region. Like Quixote, the “Impossible Dream” has become something more.
On July 18, five decades to the day after Brookdale was signed into life, dozens of college employees, alumni and local dignitaries joined together in the CVA Gallery in Lincroft to celebrate the past, present and future of Monmouth County’s first public college.
“The college today is an outgrowth of what came before us,” said interim president David Stout, who served as emcee for the birthday party program. “The history of Brookdale reveals that the college has its roots in the community. It is a true community college, in every sense of the word.”
In recognition of those roots, Stout presented framed copies of the 1967 resolution that established the college to representatives of the AAUW and the Monmouth County Freeholder Board. The resolution, which was accepted by Mary Lea Burden and Marian Wattenbarger of the AAUW and freeholders Lillian Burry, John Curley and Serena DiMaso, can be viewed here.
In accepting the gift, Curley paid homage to former freeholders Joseph Erwin, Eugene Bedell, Marcus Daly, Benjamin Danskin and Harry Larrison, each of whom signed off on the resolution in 1967. He also spoke candidly about his own experience as a Brookdale student and his reverence for the college’s dedicated faculty and staff.
“We all know that the fabric of any society is the education of the citizenry, and Brookdale has offered that education,” said Curley, who serves as county liaison to the college.
“I was enrolled at Christian Brothers Academy, and I lost my parents right after high school. This was my only option, and it was a great option. I thank each and every one of you for all of the effort that this educational community puts in. It is the greatest annuity we have ever had.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Burry and DiMaso, who thanked the gathered employees for helping to carry Brookdale’s legacy of excellence through five decades and beyond.
“You work together to make sure that our kids, and our adults, get educated and get the tools they need to succeed in life,” said DiMaso. “You have not only made their dreams possible, you have made their parents’ dreams possible, and you have made their futures and their children’s futures possible. Each and every one of you should be truly proud of your position here at Brookdale Community College. We are the best in the state because of you. You truly are unsung heroes, so thank you very much.”
In honor of Brookdale’s 50th anniversary, the freeholders also presented a certificate of recognition to the college and officially declared July 18, 2017 “Brookdale Community College Day” in Monmouth County.
Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger also presented a proclamation to college, recognizing that Brookdale “has become a life-changing force for thousands of Monmouth County residents.” On behalf of the entire Township Committee, Scharfenberger also announced that the township had declared July 18, 2017 “Brookdale Community College Day” in Middletown.
In addition to the speeches, the celebration featured photos, exhibits and digital slideshows showcasing 50 years of Brookdale history, along with refreshments and a 50th anniversary birthday cake.
The party, organized by a host of Brookdale employees including Marie Lucier Woordruff, Marie Maber and representatives from Facilities, Auxiliary Services and College Relations, was also attended by Wall Township Deputy Mayor Timothy Farrell; Hazlet Mayor Sue Kiley; Brookdale trustees Daniel Becht and Les Richens; and representatives from Monmouth County.
Learn more about Brookdale Community College here.
Check out more photos of Brookdale’s 50th Birthday Party here.