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50 in 50

Join us on Thomas Edison State University’s social media channels and here on this page 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!

Bette Ewing, AA '73

The University has grown considerably in the last 50 years, and I am delighted to be able to give back so that others might have the same wonderful experience as I did. We all want TESU to continue its mission way into the future. We want this kind of learning to continue.”

Bette Ewing, AA ’73
Marvin Brown, AA '74

I was greatly aided in my career in the U.S. Army by Thomas Edison State College (now University). I found out about the school in newspapers discussing a new state college for adults. As a soldier, we were always moving. TESU provided the continuity I needed to continue my education. It provided motivation and opportunity. I then completed my bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Thanks, TESU!”

Marvin Brown, AA ’74

I started taking computer courses at a night school, but my job sent me to different parts of the country, and I couldn’t finish my degree. I finally found Thomas Edison State University, which gave me much more flexibility. After nine years without a break, I finally finished. My credits not only gave me one degree but two bachelor’s degrees at TESU!”

Craig Gould, BSBA ’75
Dr. Carolyn Houss

TESU was the only school of higher education that listened, advised and supported me. I will always be grateful for TESU helping me achieve my goals while others just scoffed at a woman wanting to be a physician.”

Dr. Carolyn Houss, AA ’76, BA ’78
Warren Huff

Once I earned my BA, I had the opportunity to take better paying and more challenging positions. Not long after, computers started to enter the business world and I was bitten by the ‘computer bug.’ I took more evening and weekend classes and earned a Post Baccalaureate in Computer Science. My degrees opened a whole new career path to the most interesting and fun job I ever had. I have donated to the TESU Foundation since graduation and plan to continue.”

Warren Huff, AA ’77, BA ’79
Charles Moore

Someone mentioned this new, non-traditional college which recognized the value of experience and prior education. I contacted TESU and met with a counselor who designed a degree program for me. I was able to transfer all my earned credits and gain new credits through testing. Earning my degree opened new doors for me and my career culminated in becoming president/CEO of a publicly-traded company. I continue to support TESU for the important role it played in my life.”

Charles Moore, BSBA ’79
Charles Moore

The education I received at TESU supplemented and expanded upon what I already learned from other schooling. I needed to learn more in order to keep my job and get promoted. I now have a CPA, a law degree, an MST in taxation and a PhD in accounting, and am an accounting professor. I have also published more than 60 books, and more than 1000 academic articles, book chapters, working papers and conference papers, as well as a few novels.”

Robert McGee, AA ’80, BA ’82, ASM ’83, BSBA ‘83
Beth Jarett

After TESU, I became a licensed Medical Technologist and then decided to pursue Computer Programming. The greatest impact was the opportunity to afford to pay for my schooling, a second chance in pursuing a career, and maturing to understand that all things come in time and to embrace change.”

Beth Jarett, BSAST ’81
Charles Moore

The impact of TESU has been critical to my personal and professional growth. It served as the catalyst for later earning an MBA, a Juris Doctor, an LL.M. and success professionally, including being the Inspector General for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, being appointed the first Inspector General for the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission and the founder of my own law firm located in Washington, D.C.

I continue to engage with TESU because the institution delivered on its promise to help me achieve my goals and dreams, and for this, I am grateful.”

Arthur Elkins, BA ’82

To get ahead I needed to learn more about management and was able to utilize TESC’s (college at the time!) willingness to accept credits from other schools. My AS degree in Management helped me to move into management and later become the president of a small bank in Golden, CO. Thank you TESU for helping to pave the way to a successful career in banking where I remained for 31 years.”

Carlton Hamm, ASM ’83
Mark Platt BA ’84

Immediately upon receiving my BA from TESU, I took a management position in nuclear power in Idaho. Since then, I have held various supervisory or management roles in nuclear technology until I retired after 43 years. My BA from TESU added lots of credibility to my long technical resume and I subsequently obtained an MBA. I gained huge knowledge and academic credentials that made my nuclear career more interesting and far more lucrative allowing me to share with my favorite charities including TESU.”

Mark Platt, BA ’84
Lucille Russell, AA '82, BSAST '85

I worked with Susan Freedman to obtain my Technical Science degree with a minor in aviation. I helped create this program at TESC. I worked with her and the FAA to review the courses to become a professional pilot and equate this to a college course of 1, 2 and 3 credits. This helped my career and my future as an instructor pilot and captain for a well know flight department.”

Lucille Russell, AA ’82, BSAST ’85
Scott Pennington, AA ’86

People are often surprised to learn that, although I am an attorney, I am also a high school dropout. It took me approximately two years to complete my degree at Thomas Edison at the suggestion of my Air Force commanding officer. In addition to utilizing CLEP® tests and portfolio assessment, I was able to apply credits from my military training and from course work completed at various colleges.”

Scott Pennington, AA ’86
Eric Pennington, BSBA '87

After I learned about TESU from my brother Scott (AA ’86), I was attracted to Thomas Edison because of its flexibility and the myriad of ways one could earn credit. I earned credit through transferring prior earned credits; CLEP® tests; portfolio assessment; TECEP®; and ongoing course work at other colleges and universities.”

Eric Pennington, BSBA ’87
Patricia Dunn Tatrai, BSN '88

After earning my BSN I continued my education by receiving my Masters of Science in Nursing. These degrees allowed me to advance my career. I retired after 41 years as a nurse from Capital Health as a manger in the cancer program and I am currently returning to work as a part time Nurse Navigator. That would not have been possible without my education.”

Patricia Dunn Tatrai, BSN ’88
Mary Kay Mason, BA '89

Upon graduating at age 48, I started teaching piano and accompanying. Over the last thirty years I’ve taught many students and accompanied for Metro Lyric Opera Company, Monmouth Civic Chorus, Garden State Philharmonic Orchestra and many others. My current position is Musical Director of the Lake Ridge Chorus where I currently live. Getting my degree gave me knowledge and confidence to continue to learn and grow, even now as I approach my 81st birthday!

I continue to engage with TESU because I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to get an education in an unconventional and flexible way and also I’m inspired seeing other’s achievements.”

Mary Kay Mason, BA ’89
George Hartigan, BSAST '90

TESU opened the door for me to launch may career further than I could have imagined! Once I completed my bachelor’s at TESU, I completed my master’s degree and had many professional technical achievements and became an adjunct professor.”

George Hartigan, BSAST ’90
Ibis Roman, BSAST '91

Before attending TESU, I was a math science major at University of Puerto Rico. After I graduated, I started as an IT- Junior Developer in AT&T and during the next 30 years, I performed duties such as IT-Lead project manager. TESU gave me tools and the opportunity to be independent. For the last 24 years, I have been a coordinator at my church and that is my passion along with travel. As of September 2022 I had visited 102 countries, many to visit churches and orphanages. I continue to engage with TESU because I believe in the mission and actions of the institution.”

Ibis Roman, BSAST ’91
Ponzio Oliverio, BA '92

When I started my studies at TESC, I was a married deputy sheriff. Completing my degree enabled me to earn a pay raise and I eventually went to law school and am now a full-time professor at National University.”

Ponzio Oliverio, BA ’92
Patricia Essenwein, AA '93, BSBA '96

When I enrolled at TESU, I was Clinical Assistant Director for a hospital-based Phlebotomy Program. Once I received my degree I became the director of the program and was also the supervisor of the Phlebotomy and Point of Care Departments. I continued on to receive my Master’s in Hospital Services. All my courses were done at home.”

Patricia Essenwein, AA ’93, BSBA ’96
Kathleen Powers, ASM '94, BSBA '94

My TESU education taught me how to advocate for myself, how to think critically and make decisions. My TESU education put me in the driver seat. I set a goal and was determined to become a CPA, which I achieved. Choosing a non-traditional route has served me well as it allowed me to see there is always more than one pathway to get to your goals.”

Kathleen Powers, ASM ’94, BSBA ’94

I wanted to get my BA degree, so I was able to apply all my classes and credits into a BA in Liberal Arts. TESU was the easiest way to get that degree and accomplish what I needed to do for myself. This was the most efficient way for me to get ;my degree and use my previous classes and apply them into a program.”

Sandy Schemelia, BA ’95
K.D. Younger, BA '96

I was thrust into the role of family caregiver at the age of 25. Without TESU, I am not sure I would've ever completed my bachelor's degree. It provided the flexibility I needed to take care of my ailing mom during the end of her life and ultimately take care of my siblings. The school was ahead of its time when I was a student.”

K.D. Younger, BA ’96

TESU allowed me to apply my prior learning to a degree. My AS degree was the start of my education journey. I found I really enjoyed being involved in education and continued to go to school and eventually completed my Ph.D. Since completing my MBA in 2003, I have been teaching college and currently teach at the University of Phoenix in the DBA and DM programs and provide guidance to students as dissertation chair. I also facilitate courses at Cornell in the areas of business and leadership.”

Russ Carfagno, ASAST ’97
Cory McGookin

I give a lot of credit to TESU for my career. I was an enlisted US Air Force person seeking a degree. I was sent on temporary duty several times and a traditional college could not work with me. That degree got me to my dream job, being a Special Agent in the FBI. I had a GREAT career and just retired this January.”

Cory McGookin, BA ’98
Rhonda Beckett, BA '99

Completing my bachelor’s degree at TESU became the catalyst and encouragement I needed to become a lifelong learner. As a result, I completed my master’s degree and a professional certificate program. I enjoy learning new things and taking classes to create the best version of myself.

I have worked at this great institution for the past 15 years, and I believe in the mission and enjoy helping adult learners achieve their academic goals.”

Rhonda Beckett, BA ’99
Sherrilynn Novack, ASM '00, BSBA '02

I was in my forties when I graduated from TESU and it was one of the proudest moments of my life! I began my education journey at TESU with an Associated Degree in Business, followed by as BSBA. I always had jobs in the PR and Marketing fields and these two degrees gave me better insight into the "whys" of PR and Marketing.”

Sherrilynn Novack, ASM ’00, BSBA ’02
Lynne Riggins-Person, MSM '01

TESU was a milestone in my life that helped to shape me into the person I am today.  For that I will be forever grateful. This degree has been instrumental in every aspect of my career, my community life and served as the platform for me to pursue a doctorate in education.”

Lynne Riggins-Person, MSM ’01
Donna LoStocco, BSBA '02

It took me 22 years from the time I started my degree at community college. I had started a business and was caring for my kids, elderly parents and my mentally ill sister. A school commute was not manageable, but I was determined to finish my degree before my kids did. Completing my degree gave me confidence at work and to complete an MBA then becoming a CEO.”

Donna LoStocco, BSBA ’02
Harvey Barnwell, BSHS '03

Completing my degree afforded me opportunities for promotion, as I am currently the Chief of Police of a county agency, a member of the greatest fraternity, thee, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and I am all but dissertation at another university in a K-12 program”

Harvey Barnwell, BSHS ’03
Michael Sarles, BA '04

My TESU degree gave me many more career options. I used my BA in Psychology to work more in the mental health/special needs field before transitioning into marketing and later higher education. My degree provided education to go with my mental health training that helped me as a volunteer at ETTA and NCSY in Los Angeles, CA. I appreciate and value the opportunity that TESU provided me for earning my Bachelor’s degree. When I encounter people who need degree completion I refer them to TESU.”

Michael Sarles, BA ’04
Gay Kunich, BA '05

I joined the U.S. Air Force in 1986 and was determined to earn my bachelor’s degree as I knew it was a path to a job after I retired from the military. Thomas Edison took all my credits from prior schools from my military assignments. I now have my master’s degree, and work on the Department of Veterans Affairs national media desk. I also have a part-time job as an adjunct professor. I hope to someday serve as a TESU mentor as well.”

Gary Kunich, BA ’05
Josephine Williams, BA '06

After receiving my degree from TESU, and placing this achievement on my file, I was selected for promotion in the US Army. The studying helped me greatly in dealing with people, whether in my community, in church, with my employees as well as peers and superiors. I am happy that my education opened my eyes and allow me to help others.”

Josephine Williams, BA ’06
Elizabeth Young, BA '07

I saw an ad in a magazine, and it was time to further my education for a better job so I explored TESU. I then went on to complete a master’s degree in 2009 and currently work as a paralegal and a Veteran's Service Officer helping veterans and others in my community. TESU values its alumni and is committed and engaged with the alumni community.”

Elizabeth Young, BA ’07
Salvatore Salpietro, BA '08

TESU is literally the only university that exists that would’ve allowed me to do what I do. I co-founded two tech startups and today I’m an executive (and first employee) for a company that now has about 100 employees - this is my proudest accomplishment to date.”

Salvatore Salpietro, BA ’08
Glenn Closson, BSAST '05

TESU was highly recommended by a lot of fellow US Navy Veterans that were in the Nuclear program. The school allowed me to obtain my bachelor’s in Nuclear Science Technology, which then allowed me to go for my MBA. Both helped me in my entrepreneurial career to have the knowledge and discipline to own and operate multiple breweries.”

Glenn Closson, BSAST ’09
Patti Kousoulis, BA '10, MBA '16

I started my college education at the age of 18 at Rutgers University. I wanted to continue working to support myself when I started college, but it was impossible with my course schedule. I told my work colleague and mentor at Rutgers Emergency Services about my challenges of wanting to work and stay in school, and he told me about TESU. TESU was the only cutting-edge educational institution that was flexible enough for me to go to school and work at the same time. I graduated from TESU in 2010 with my BA degree then came back for my MBA and am able to combine my passion for Human Services with my dual degrees in Psychology and MBA.”

Patti Kousoulis, BA ’10, MBA ’16
Gary Fassler, BSN '08, MSN '11

I graduated from Mercer County Community College with an ASN in 2004 at the age of 49. I wasn’t sure how many years I would physically be able to continue working in Labor & Delivery, so I wanted to get an MSN so I could teach. With TESU being online, it was also affordable and flexible enough to fit into my full-time work schedule. Since graduating, I have taught maternity clinical for MCCC, Holy Family University, and the past couple years for TESU’s Accelerated BSN program.”

Gary Fassler, BSN ’08, MSN ’11
Joyce Serdinsky, BA '12

It was firsthand experience with Hurricane Katrina – how huge the impact was to have just a little bit of language to communicate with people – that planted in my heart the need to go back to school and pick up where I left off. And now as a supervisor with the NJDEP, working in a communications center, if you can’t communicate with those on the other end of the phone, you have nothing to offer them. It’s civil service, so we serve the people of New Jersey. We protect our air, land, water and natural resources like New Jersey state parks, and fish and wildlife areas, handling everything from black bears to bioterrorism. I’ve been there for 16 years, and Thomas Edison State University has been instrumental in that.”

Joyce Serdinsky, BA ’12
DeVonne Johnson, BA '13

I was and still am active-duty U.S. Army, and I needed the flexibility that TESU offers to earn my degree. My TESU experience allowed me to become an Aviation Officer and I started flying helicopters and now have transitioned to fixed wing aircraft with a goal of transitioning to a major airline in the future. All of this was possible because of my degree from TESU. Last year I ran in the virtual 5K because I wanted to show support for the school that helped me move into a great position for my career and ultimately, in life. Whenever I get the chance, I tell my coworkers about TESU so that they can achieve their educational goals in a smart way.”

DeVonne Johnson, BA ’13
Ellen Schilling Acconcia, AA ’14, BA ’15

In 2014 I connected with a TESU advisor who reviewed my varied credits and informed me that I had accumulated enough to earn an associate’s degree (and had many left over to put toward an eventual BA that I earned in 2015). I had always dreamed of finishing my degree and TESU made that possible in a way that worked for where I was in my life and career. My newly instilled confidence at finally achieving this milestone played a huge role in my success.”

Ellen Schilling Acconcia, AA ’14, BA ’15
Rishi Dixit, BSOL ’15

I embarked on a quest to find an educational institution that could accommodate my demanding professional commitments and personal life. The TESU curriculum offered in the Organizational Leadership program perfectly aligned with my aspirations equipping me with the knowledge and insights to address the challenges and responsibilities I face as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry. The education I received from TESU has empowered me as a leader and as an alumni ambassador, enabling me to nurture more leaders and stay engaged with the university and the community.”

Rishi Dixit, BSOL ’15
Stephen Wise, BA '16

I previously went to college and dropped out to join the Air Force, and after several years away, I wanted to finish my degree to pursue a civilian career. I genuinely feel like I received a good education at TESU. It was really flexible for my schedule as I was still deployed. It helped me prepare for applying that work ethic into my first civilian job. I am proud to have finished my degree and I want to see the University continue to flourish and inspire other folks who maybe once gave up on a college dream see that it is doable and without hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, all while still receiving a good education.”

Stephen Wise, BA ’16
Robert Pelsang, BSBA '17

I had been out of work trying to get my health better and was a disabled Navy Veteran with insufficient support getting back into the work force. One day someone at the Veterans Administration told me I would qualify as a disabled veteran to get college assistance. I went online and searched for military college assistance and found many colleges but the one that stood out was Thomas Edison State College. Being an electronics technician in the Navy made my choice easy and upon graduating, my pride and love of work shone through.”

Robert Pelsang, BABA ’17
Jenette Gerst, BSN '13, MSN '18

My degrees helped me finally become the PMHNP I’d been hoping to be for a long time. It propelled my education in a direction that made this possible and my experiences are so diverse now. I feel like it makes me a better nurse overall.”

Jenette Gerst, BSN ’13, MSN ’18
Silena Shuta, BA '19

TESU had a huge impact on my career. I knew that my position as Acting Victim Witness Coordinator with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office would not endure if I didn’t have a BA. Not only did my degree help me achieve a career goal I worked for, but it also gave me the confidence and security I needed in my professional and personal life. It took me a total of 22 years to obtain my BA, there were so many hurdles during that journey and I felt that TESU brought it home for me.”

Silena Shuta, BA ’19

Toni M. Terry, BA

"I am 67 years old, soon to be 68, and to be able to say I did this at this day in my life is just gratification for my own self."

Watch Toni »