1950s

Edward '51 '56 MA and Jean '50 '60 MA Trotta Cooper: It All Started with a Broken Necklace

When Jean Trotta’s necklace broke in the middle of Professor Elizabeth Van Derveer’s Selling class at Montclair State Teachers College in the summer of 1948, sending beads flying all across the floor, little did she know that her life was about to change forever. Classmate Ed Cooper helped her gather the beads and a lifelong love began. The Coopers were married for 57 years, until Ed passed away in 2009. Jean is still passionate about Montclair State. Needless to say, one of her favorite professors was Dr. Van Derveer! Edward and Jean loved Montclair State and wanted to support education and future teachers. The couple made a planned gift to endow the Edward and Jean Cooper Teacher Training Scholarship. Jean attended Montclair State on a scholarship sponsored by the Lyndhurst PTA and wants to give back to future generations of students.


William '58 and Katherine '59 Liess: The AV Center Opens the Door to Romance

William Liess met his future wife Katherine when both worked in the Audio Visual (AV) Center in the basement of College Hall (then the Administration and Classroom Building) with Professors Emma Fantone and Ted Sheft. Bill was a social studies major and Katherine was a Spanish major. They both worked there together throughout their college years. “It was a small school and everyone got to know each other,” Bill recalls fondly of his student days. Bill remembers the Russ Hall dining room, where “We all ate together, with dinner served promptly at 6 p.m. with table service and nice tablecloths.” Bill was a founding member of the Tau Sigma Delta fraternity, and Katherine was in a sorority; there were many social events on campus. “I received an excellent education that resulted in my receiving a graduate assistantship to Syracuse University upon graduation,” Bill adds. He spent his entire 43-year career in the Clifton Public Schools, starting as a teacher at the high school and working his way up to Superintendent, where he served for 17 years. “I owe it all to the start I received at Montclair State,” he says proudly. His and Katherine’s granddaughter Kaitlin Schweighardt is now a freshman at Montclair State, studying to be a school psychologist.


Protase E. '57 '62 MA and Sally Ayers Woodford: Always Listen to Your Housemother

If Protase E. “Woody” Woodford hadn’t won the Margaret B. Holz Scholarship and spent a year studying in Spain, he would not have met his future wife, Sally Ayers. Woody, a Spanish major, returned to campus in the fall of 1956 for his senior year. Sally came to Montclair State that year in a special nursing work study program, where nurses took classes and worked a number of hours in the school infirmary. At that time, the school only had one staff nurse, Major Pritchard, who was in charge of the nursing staff, who all wore starched white nursing attire. “I was a sucker for the uniform,” jokes Woody, who noticed Sally right away. “She caught my eye, but she was all business,” he adds. One evening before dinner, Woody was sitting with his friends, all in their requisite jackets and ties, outside the Russ Hall dining room. He saw Sally approaching across the campus and thought of an unusual way to get her attention. He pretended to be having a seizure, and his friends called “Miss Ayers, please help!” “Sally came over, took one look, and said nothing was wrong with me,” Woody recalls with a smile. “Then the nice housemothers, Mrs. Conrad, Mrs. Fennan, and Mrs. Mead, intervened and told her that they knew me and that I was a nice boy.” They persuaded Sally to give Woody a chance, and the two have been a happy couple every since. Woody and Sally got married in 1960. For their honeymoon, they spent the summer in Spain. They go back to Spain almost every year.


Dr. William '59 '64 MA and Marie '60 Cerefice DeLorenzo: A Change in Minor Leads to a Soul Mate

If William DeLorenzo hadn’t switched his minor at Montclair State, he probably would not have met his future wife, Marie. Bill was a Spanish major. He minored in business his first two years at Montclair State, but decided to make a change to speech and drama in his junior year. Bill had to get special permission from Dean Clyde M. Huber to make up the extra credits. Fortunately, one of Bill’s campus jobs was working as an assistant to the dean’s secretary, Marie Frazee-Balassarre ’43 ’46 MA, and she got him a meeting with the dean to plead his case. The dean approved Bill’s request to take 19 credits, and Bill says that it wound up being his best semester at Montclair State.  Marie Cerefice was a speech and drama major specializing in speech science, and very involved in the department’s activities. Bill met Marie in his senior year in a class taught by Professor L. Howard Fox. Marie remembered him from when he played Homer in “By the Skin of Our Teeth” and she was the stage manager. Bill invited Marie, a junior, to his Senior Prom and the senior boat ride up the Hudson, and the two have been a happy couple ever since.


Dr. Donald '51 '56 MA and Audrey '71 MA Korsak Gregg: “Dynamics of Group Process” Leads to a Lifelong Partnership

Donald Gregg loved being a student at Montclair State and later became a professor at his alma mater, teaching in the Counseling and Human Services Department for 37 years. Audrey Korsak came to Montclair State as a graduate student. “I loved it there from the first time I walked thought the gate,” she shares. Don and Audrey first met when she was a student in his Dynamics of Group Process graduate class. It was a large class, with about 50 students; Audrey was highly recommended to him by his colleague Dr. Arlene King as an outstanding student. Although the two did not become romantically involved until after Audrey was no longer his student, they immediately connected on a professional level. Audrey, a guidance major, remembers that she “had an incredible experience in class. It changed the whole course of my life. I learned how to be a counselor and how to live life.” The Greggs have been together for almost 40 years and married for 25 years, and Don says that their relationship “is still fresh to us each day.” Audrey adds that, “There is a huge place for Montclair State in our hearts. We appreciate and respect what Montclair State gave us: a wonderful, fulfilling education that led to a life of helping people.”


Agnes Doran Howarth '51 and John Howarth '50 '57 MA

During their time as students at Montclair State Teachers College, Agnes and John found that they had a lot in common. They were both student athletes – John was on the football team and Agnes was a cheerleader. They were part of Montclair State’s undefeated 1947 football season together and would often spend time in the Lower Center Hall, where students would congregate between classes.

Agnes lived in Russ Hall and would often meet John in the dining room there for meals. Shortly after Agnes graduated in 1951, the couple got married. In the years since, Agnes taught fifth grade and John taught business, coached football and served as superintendent in the Northern Valley Regional school district for 17 years. They also raised five children and are now the proud grandparents of eleven and great-grandparents of one.

Currently, the Howarths live in Belmar, New Jersey and spend their winters in Florida.  No matter how far they go, though, they’re never too far from their good times and memories with Montclair State. Every year, the couple goes to the 1947 football team reunion to catch up and reminisce with their old friends!


Dr. William Kushner '54 and Helen Birnbaum Kushner '56

The play was The Hasty Heart. The time was the spring of 1954. And the place was Montclair State. It brought William and Helen  together. Bill Kushner was cast by Mr. Ballare as Blossom, a character who spoke no English. “Sophomore Helen Birnbaum was assigned to apply my make-up,” Bill recalls. “My arms grew tired, so I placed them on my make-up artist's hips. Without missing a stroke with her brush, she said, 'Take your hands away, I am not that kind of girl.'”

After graduation, Bill was drafted into the Army. Serendipitously, Bill and Helen had one chance meeting at the Port Authority building in New York before he was shipped overseas. “I saw this cute petite young lady, by chance, and I tapped her on the shoulder,” Bill shares. “We talked, we had lunch together and we said we would write to each other. We've told our grandchildren to look for the Plaque at the Port Authority building,” he jokes. Bill served in Germany for the better part of two years and returned to find out that Helen had moved to California to teach. In 1958, they met again. They have now been married for 54 years and have four children and 12 grandchildren. “I tell my grandchildren that it took me four years to convince your grandmother that she was that kind of girl!” laughs Bill. Daughter Sura Shachnovitz ’09 ME is also an alumna. Bill taught at Rowan University for thirty years and is a Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication. Helen is retired from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. She was a former editor of the Montclair Quarterly.