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50th Anniversary

Celebrating the Past and Preparing for the Future

Fifty years ago, when Thomas Edison State University was established, it embraced a radical mission: to reimagine higher education for adults. The challenge was to design a new institution that embraced new approaches to improve access and respond to the needs of working adult students.

New Jersey took a chance in 1972 on an institution of higher education named after Thomas Alva Edison to invent these new approaches that would emphasize flexibility and recognize that college-level learning could occur outside of classrooms.

Over the past 50 years, TESU became part of a national movement to launch innovative institutions to serve adult learners, transforming the lives of thousands of students while changing the course of higher education.

As TESU celebrates our 50-year milestone, higher education is once again in need of reinvention. Inspired by our namesake, we are committed to redefine how higher education should respond to the needs of working adults, as well as the needs of their employers and their communities.

TESU is uniquely positioned to redefine the future of higher education for adults. The celebration of TESU’s 50th anniversary provides an opportunity to envision a bright future and to begin fully realizing it.

50th Anniversary

50th Anniversary

Virtual Campus Tour

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University in 2022, we pause to reflect on the past 50 years and acknowledge those who came before and forged the way, providing a path for adults to earn a degree that previously wasn’t available. Thomas Edison State University understood that adults had life experience and training that did not always fit into the traditional mold. Recognizing the value of those experiences, TESU began a path that opened the door for over 60,000 students.

The 50th Anniversary provides an opportunity to promote and articulate the values and initiatives that will lead the University into the next 50 years. Throughout 2022, we highlighted areas of strategic focus that remain at the core of who we are, promoted the work being done in these areas and eagerly look forward to what lies ahead. 

Our Ongoing Commitment...

Stay tuned for more information about opportunities to gather together virtually or in person
as we celebrate our history and look ahead to our future!

University Presidents

Learn more about our presidents and their roles in shaping Thomas Edison State University.

Dr. James D. Brown: 1972-1978
Dr. James D. Brown
Read more »
Dr. Larraine R. Matusak: 1979-1982
Dr. Larraine R. Matusak
Read more »
Dr. George A. Pruitt: 1982-2018
Dr. George A. Pruitt
Read more »
Dr. Merodie A. Hancock: 2018-Present
Dr. Merodie A. Hancock
Read more »

Throughout the University’s 50 years of serving adult learners, more than 60,000 alumni have earned their degree going on to have a meaningful impact throughout our communities.

The actions of our alumni are woven into the stories of those around them whether it is encouraging others to pursue their degrees, inspiring children or family members to reach their goals, re-entering the workforce or earning a promotion, helping those less fortunate by volunteering locally or internationally… the list goes on. Each seemingly small action has a larger impact, not just on our alumni but in the lives of all those around them.

Join us on Thomas Edison State University’s social media channels and here on the 50 in 50 site to celebrate alumni from each year of TESU’s 50-year history. Each Thursday we will feature a graduate from a different year. TESU graduates contribute to their families, their communities, their workplaces and the University. Celebrate them and this remarkable milestone!

Meet 50 of our amazing alumni from each of our 50 amazing years!

1972: It was a very good year!

  • Home Box Office, better known today as HBO, became the first premium cable television subscription service in the country. Before that, most homes only had access to network and public access television.
  • The Space Transportation System, better known today as the Space Shuttle program, was formally launched. Before that, space travel had been limited to cumbersome rockets and capsules that could be not be reused.
  • Hewlett-Packard, better known today as HP, introduced the first scientific, hand-held calculator. Before that, the only portable, hand-held device that could perform trigonometric and exponential functions was a slide rule.

Also in 1972, Edison College, known today as Thomas Edison State University, was established by the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education. Before that, no institution quite like it had ever existed.

According to the resolution establishing the school, Edison College was created to “…enable individuals to receive academic recognition for skills and knowledge acquired in a variety of ways and would permit New Jersey residents to complete part or all of their work toward a baccalaureate or associate degree without formal attendance at a campus.”

History of Thomas Edison State University



  • Edison College is established, named after the famous New Jersey inventor who gained extensive knowledge in several technical subject areas without attending college classes.
  • Dr. James D. Brown is named director.


  • The institution opens its doors to the public in a second-floor office in the McShain Building, located at 1750 N. Olden Ave., in Ewing, N.J.


  • The first student enrolls.



  • The Board of Trustees is established.


  • The board holds its first meeting at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, N.J.
  • The board appoints Dr. James D. Brown as the school’s first president.
  • The board also changes the school’s name to Thomas A. Edison College.
  • On June 15, Thomas Edison holds its first Commencement ceremony at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, N.J. The first class includes 70 graduates who earn Associate in Arts degrees.


  • Dr. Arnold Fletcher is named as the school’s first vice president. He would serve as acting president on two separate occasions in 1978 and 1982.



  • The first Academic Council is appointed to ensure academic integrity of all academic programs and credit assessments.


  • The Thomas Edison College Examination Program (TECEP®) is established.
  • Thomas Edison becomes a founding member of the Cooperative Assessment of Experiential Learning, precursor to the Council on the Assessment of Experiential Learning (CAEL). The cooperative would develop improved methods in the assessment of experiential learning, which become the standards that govern many of today’s prior learning assessment programs.



  • Thomas Edison awards its first baccalaureate degrees: Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.



  • The Thomas A. Edison State College Foundation for Nontraditional Education, Inc. is founded as a component part of the institution.


  • Thomas Edison moves to the Forrestal Campus in Princeton, N.J.



  • The institution earns full accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.



  • Dr. Larraine R. Matusak is named Thomas Edison’s second president.


  • The institution moves into the historic Kelsey Building in Trenton, N.J.



  • The N.J. State Board of Higher Education approves the school’s new name to Thomas A. Edison State College.



  • Thomas Edison completes a major reorganization creating three divisions headed by vice presidents.



  • The first independent study course is launched, a precursor to Guided Study courses.


  • Dr. George A. Pruitt becomes Thomas Edison’s third president.



  • The Foundation is restructured as the Thomas A. Edison State College Foundation, Inc., an independent, charitable organization benefitting the College.



  • The Center for Learning and Telecommunications is established, forerunner to the Center for Directed Independent Adult Learning (DIAL).



  • The New Jersey Legislature approves state college autonomy, empowering Thomas Edison and eight other senior public institutions to control resources and daily operations.
  • The N.J. Board of Higher Education awards Thomas Edison a three-year $1.8 million challenge grant to create a network that will enable students to access services and courses via a computer network, known as the Computer Assisted Lifelong Learning (CALL) Network.



  • The first courses using the CALL Network are launched to students; courses are known as Guided Study on CALL courses and are a precursor to online courses. These courses were made available to all students by 1990.



  • Thomas Edison holds the first National Institute on the Assessment of Experiential Learning as a resource for educators interested in the learning the best practices of assessing adult and experiential learning.


  • The RN to BSN program receives initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.



  • The Trenton Office of Policy Studies is launched, forerunner to the Institute of Public Policy, which was created in 1995.



  • The Foundation hosts its first Gala at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, N.J.
  • The institution awards a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology degree to Thomas Alva Edison 61 years after the great inventor’s death. Edison’s great-grandson accepts the degree on his behalf.
  • Thomas Edison adds the Academic Center at 167 W. Hanover Street to its Trenton, N.J., campus.



  • Thomas Edison adds the Kuser Mansion at 315 W. State Street to its Trenton, N.J., campus.



  • The New York Times calls Thomas Edison "one of the brightest stars of higher learning."


  • Thomas Edison gains approval for its first graduate program, the Master of Science in Management.


  • The Foundation awards the first Spirit of Edison Awards.


  • The On-Line Computer Classroom is introduced, enabling students with a computer and modem to take classes via the CALL Network.



  • The New Jersey State Library is made an affiliate of Thomas Edison State College.
  • The award-winning townhouse preservation project begins, which will restore five historic townhouses on West State Street.
  • The Institute for Public Policy is renamed to honor the outstanding record of public service of the late N.J. Assemblyman John S. Watson, the nation’s first African American chairman of an appropriations committee.
  • The Institute establishes a partnership with the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association to provide public policy and research support to New Jersey mayors.



  • Forbes magazine recognizes Thomas Edison as one of the top 20 institutions in the country to use technology to create learning opportunities for adults.


  • Blackboard is implemented as the institution’s learning management system for all online courses.


  • Thomas Edison is one of only 60 institutions in the country selected by PBS as a partner in the "Going the Distance" program where students can earn a degree through courses televised on PBS stations.


  • Thomas Edison partners with the University of South Africa to share resources and expertise and explore the development of new programs.



  • Thomas Edison is selected by the U.S. Navy as a participating institution in its Navy College Rating Partnership Program.



  • Thomas Edison is selected by the U.S. Army’s University Access Online Program.


  • The Martinson Family Foundation awards the Foundation a $125,000 grant to develop the first interactive, online undergraduate courses that utilize flash technology. The courses earn Thomas Edison a Telly Award for outstanding achievement in video and film production.


  • Thomas Edison announces a major academic restructuring with the establishment of schools led by deans that will lead the academic enterprise of the institution.
  • Gary and Diane Heavin make a landmark $2 million gift to establish the Gary and Diane Heavin Endowed Fund and the Heavin School of Social and Behavioral Sciences is named in their honor.
  • The Canal Banks Building is opened at 221 W. Hanover Street in Trenton.


  • The School of Nursing launches its Diversity in Nursing program to recruit and prepare minority nurse educators after being awarded a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Health Resource and Services Administration.


  • Sun National Bank becomes the first company to enroll in Corporate Choice® program, which maximizes tuition assistance programs for businesses and organizations.


  • Thomas Edison launches the Alumni Ambassador Program, which invites graduates to help identify and develop relationships with potential students, donors and businesses.


  • UPS enrolls in the Corporate Choice® program, becoming the first major international corporation to participate in the program.


  • Thomas Edison launches the Mobile Learning Initiative and pilots the FlashTrack® course delivery format and an online proctoring service; funding is provided by the Foundation.
  • The RN to BSN/MSN receives initial accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Accreditation.



  • Thomas Edison is selected by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a participating institution in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program.


  • Thomas Edison received a $250,000 competitive FIPSE grant from the Department of Education for the FlashTrack initiative.


  • The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership is granted initial accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.



  • The School of Nursing is named in honor of the late W. Cary Edwards for the instrumental role he played in the 1980s to help establish a nursing program at the College.
  • State leaders decide not to move forward with a proposal to merge the College with Rutgers University.


  • Thomas Edison receives a $5.1 million federal grant to support the New Jersey State Library’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, which added computer workstations, upgrade internet connectivity and provide job search assistance and workforce development programs at libraries throughout New Jersey.


  • Thomas Edison and The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy receive a $240,000 federal grant to conduct an economic analysis of a region that comprises 19 urban municipalities in New Jersey to help create sustainable economic growth.



  • Thomas Edison is awarded the 2011 Distance Education Innovation Award by the National University Technology Network for development of the FlashTrack® course delivery system.
  • The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s 2010 candidate performance report indicates that the Thomas Edison’s graduates have the highest pass rates for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination among all regionally accredited senior institutions of higher education in New Jersey that offer accounting programs.



  • The associate degree program and undergraduate certificate in polysomnography is awarded initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
  • Major renovations begin on Kuser Mansion, which Thomas Edison purchased in 2008.


  • The first graduates of the Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) Program earn a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN).


  • The New York Times calls Thomas Edison the "college that paved the way for flexibility."


  • Thomas Edison and The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy receive a federal $320,000 grant to create a comprehensive economic development strategy for 19 urban municipalities in New Jersey.
  • Demolition begins on Glen Cairn Arms, a blighted, vacant building that Thomas Edison acquired from the city of Trenton.


  • The Martinson Family Foundation awards Thomas Edison a $450,000 grant to leverage the latest video and multimedia technology to create more interactive courses and develop a media creation studio.



  • The Center for the Assessment of Learning and the School of Business and Management partner to develop the Open Course Option, which enables students to complete an Associate in Science in Business Administration degree using free, open courses provided by the Saylor Foundation as well as TECEP® and other exam programs and portfolio assessment.


  • The Helene Fuld Health Trust awards Thomas Edison a $650,000 grant to fund scholarships for students enrolled in the Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) Program.


  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation selects Thomas Edison for its New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program, which supports underrepresented students in the accelerated BSN program.
  • Thomas Edison is named the anchor institution of the New Jersey Prior Learning Assessment Network (NJPLAN), a consortium of New Jersey colleges and universities that will allow their students to earn credit via prior learning assessment.


  • The Lumina Foundation selects Thomas Edison to explore ways to develop and scale a national business model that helps more nontraditional students leverage their prior learning and complete their college degrees.
  • Comcast partners with Thomas Edison, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Veteran Business Development Council to produce a national public service announcement aimed at helping veterans learn how to earn credits for military training to complete a college degree.
  • Thomas Edison is selected by the American Council on Education to join The Alternative Credit Project, a consortium of institutions working to create more flexible pathways for nontraditional students.
  • On Dec. 1, the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education granted university status to Thomas Edison State College.



  • The institution publically changes its name to Thomas Edison State University. University status was granted by the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education in early December 2015.


  • JetBlue announces the launch of its JetBlue Scholars Program and partnership with the University as the sole higher education provider for the program.


  • The University is selected as one of just eight institutions by the U.S. Department of Education as a site for the Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships (EQUIP) program, an experimental federal pilot program aimed at promoting, expanding and measuring college access, affordability and student outcomes.


  • The University opens Glen Cairn Hall, a 34,360-square-foot building that is home to the University’s W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing and features state-of-the-art nursing simulation laboratories, lecture halls, conference rooms and the University’s student advising center.


  • The first cohort of the University’s first doctoral program, the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, begin classes.
  • The U.S. Economic Development Administration approves a comprehensive economic development strategy coordinated by The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy focusing on 19 urban municipalities in New Jersey, opening up the possibility of federal funding investments for economic development projects in those towns and cities.



  • Dr. George A. Pruitt announces his plans to retire as president of the University after 35 years. The Board of Trustees begins a nationwide search to find the University’s next president.


  • The School of Business and Management earns accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) for its Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Management and Master of Science in Human Resources Management degree programs.


  • The University announces that Dr. Merodie A. Hancock, president of SUNY Empire State College in New York, has been selected as the next president of Thomas Edison State University, following an extensive national search.



  • Dr. Merodie A. Hancock takes office as the University’s fourth president.
  • The PSEG Foundation awards a $200,000 grant to support a career enhancement initiative for military and veteran students and to support the advancement of science, technology, engineering and math courses at the University.
  • The University announces the formation of the Center for Leadership and Governance, which will focus on the development and guidance of emerging leaders as well as strengthening the effectiveness of those already serving in leadership positions. Upon leaving the presidency of the University, Dr. George A. Pruitt serves as board distinguished fellow at the center.


  • The inauguration of Dr. Hancock is scheduled for Sept. 29, 2018, in conjunction with the University’s 46th annual Commencement.


  • The University renames its Center for Learning and Technology to the ‘W. J. Seaton Center for Learning and Technology’ in honor of the provost and vice president’s years of commitment to TESU and educational technologies that support adult learning.



  • The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) awards The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University a $155,000 grant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the DCA’s Urban Enterprise Zone program (UEZ).


  • Thomas Edison State University launches its second doctoral program, a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with courses that begin in January.
  • Thomas Edison offers 3+1 Bachelor Degrees to NJ Community College students, allowing them to transfer up to 90 community college credit.


  • Thomas Edison State University receives $100K Signature Grant from The Provident Bank Foundation to program promotes experiential learning as TESU’s nontraditional and distance-learning adult students support New Jersey nonprofit organizations in the form of 12-week Capstone Projects.
  • Graduates of Thomas Edison State University’s April 2018-2019 Accelerated Program cohort achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).


  • Wells Fargo donates historic N.C. Wyeth Painting, largest gift in the University’s history.



  • TESU becomes innovative partner providing college credit for edX’s MicroBachelors® Programs, a novel undergraduate-level credential.


  • TESU staff is moved to working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • The University held its first virtual Commencement ceremony and helped the Class of 2020 celebrate by mailing Commencement Celebration Boxes with items that have previously been given exclusively to graduates who attend a TESU Commencement in person.
  • TESU Foundation hosts the 29th Annual Grande Ball 2020 virtually.

Elizabeth EwingMy name is Elizabeth Ewing, and I am the proud first graduate of Thomas Edison State University, then College.

I am very pleased to be able to share my story in celebration of the University’s 50th Anniversary. In 1973 I was a young mother and a student at Monmouth University. Finding the time to attend class and care for my son was difficult at times, and when he had an unfortunate accident resulting in a broken leg, I was no longer able to physically attend class. I was frustrated and disappointed because I was so close to earning my degree.

A friend told me about a new state college that was allowing students to transfer credits from other institutions. Having enough credits to earn an associate degree, I transferred all my credits to Thomas Edison and graduated on June 15, 1973, at the College’s first commencement ceremony. We lined up alphabetically and with my last name being Barry at the time, I became the very first alumni.

The University has grown so much in the last 50 years, but its mission has not waivered. Today, the University is still as dedicated to providing flexible higher education for working adults as it was in 1972. With new and innovative approaches, the University is focused on responding to the needs of working adults and their employers and ensuring that the impact of a TESU degree extends into our communities.

I have been supporting the University over the years with an annual gift and am delighted to be able to give back so that others might have the same wonderful experience as I did. As part of the University’s 50th Anniversary celebration, please join me in making a meaningful gift to support the University that truly transformed my life and the lives of so many others!

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A Campus with History

Thomas Edison State University’s campus comprises six buildings located in the historic district surrounding New Jersey’s state capitol building in Trenton.

Learn more »

The Ripple Effect

Your TESU story didn’t end when you earned your degree. Your impact had only begun. Tell us how earning your degree started a ripple effect in your life and the lives of those around you.

Share Your Impact »

Why Choose Thomas Edison State University?

Since 1972, TESU has been a leader in adult education, focusing exclusively on you. We understand the importance of providing flexibility with structure, and it’s our goal to provide a learning environment that is right for you and your needs. As a result, at TESU we strive to meet our ultimate goal – helping you to achieve a degree that will lead you to career advancement.

100+ Degree Programs

100+ Degree Programs
Choose from associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, plus certificates.

Year-Round Enrollment

Year-Round Enrollment
Undergraduate courses start monthly. Graduate courses have multiple start dates per year.

Online Classes

Online Classes
Study when and where it’s convenient for you with online classes.

Military Friendly

Friendly to the Military
As a Yellow Ribbon school, we offer tuition discounts to service members and their families.

Transfer Credits

Transfer Credits
We accept eligible transfer credits – from prior education, prior learning, and military training.

Fully Accredited

Fully Accredited
Accreditation matters. TESU is accredited by the Middle States Commission and has programmatic accreditation. Learn more »