Dear members of the NJCU Family:
This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” At NJCU, we know women built this institution and today, women continue to carry this institution.
This special month gives us the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the achievements of the girls and women who have built, shaped, and improved our culture and society. As we near the 100-year anniversary of NJCU's founding, it is important to remember that we began our history as a teacher-training college with an enrollment of 330 women and one man. We now have more 6,000 students and women are still in the majority—representing approximately 60% of our student body. Every single day since our very beginning, we have provided women with equal access to an education that transforms their lives.
When I think of women at NJCU, I need look no further than my own family. My wife, now a proud NJCU alumna, first stepped on this campus as a child, when her mother was attending classes here to earn a degree and create a better life for her family. The simple fact that this school offered evening classes so a working single parent could attend college at night was the sort of access that was life changing for my mother-in-law, who today enjoys the promise of a better life fulfilled thanks to NJCU.
I also think about women like Deborah Cannon Partridge Wolfe '36, whose name honors our College of Education. Suffering from financial hardship due to the Great Depression, Wolfe commuted to NJCU while working numerous jobs to earn a degree in social studies education. She later earned her master's and doctoral degrees at Columbia University's Teachers College, one of the top schools in the nation. She became a university professor and administrator, and rose to national prominence as the Education Chief of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor under President John F. Kennedy. She was the first Black woman to hold the position and helped shape legislation that originated Head Start, financial aid, and community colleges, as well as modernizing vocational education. Her NJCU degree started her on a path to making equity and access more possible for all.
Like many of our students today, my mother-in-law, my wife, and Wolfe already had greatness within them. They only needed a chance to reveal it. NJCU has been at the forefront of providing opportunities for women from the start, but we have to be vigilant in continuing to do so. As Deb Haaland, our U.S. Secretary of the Interior—and the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary—recently said, “though we have more Native women serving in Congress, a woman of color in the vice president’s office, and women making moves across the country, we still have to recognize that the disadvantages that we face are created by a system designed to keep us out, and that, coupled with systemic racism, makes Women’s History Month all the more important.” We must recognize the unequal burdens that women still bear and do everything in our power to eliminate them.
Toni Morrison observed that “you are your best thing.” Michele Obama professes, “don’t let anyone speak for you, and don’t rely on others to fight for you.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg empowered us to recognize that “women belong in all places where decisions are made.” Maya Angelou proclaimed that “each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming, she stands up for all women.” These words resonate truths and our collective actions deliver their promise.
To our abuelas and tias, to our grandmas and aunties, to our mothers and sisters, to our friends, we honor you for the large gestures of achievements to the quieter persistence and determination that make us all better.
Please continue telling your stories—our stories. Please continue building and lifting our communities.
Please join me in honoring women's contributions throughout this month and supporting women's equal access to opportunity all year.
In solidarity and allyship, and with gratitude,
New Jersey City University