Harvey Schmelter-Davis ’61 wanted to be a teacher. “I wanted to be the best history teacher in the world,” he corrects.
But then as now, college was a big investment for the average family. “Montclair, which had just changed its name from Montclair State Teachers College to Montclair State College, had a reputation for offering a high-quality education, and the tuition was an affordable $150 per year,” he recalls.
Schmelter-Davis began graduate studies in geography at Penn State, but left to fulfill his goal of working with students. Teaching assignments in Highland Falls, New York and at Monmouth Regional High School in New Jersey gave him the classroom experience he was looking for. “I loved teaching history,” he says, “but I also began to think beyond the classroom. I completed a master’s degree in history at Rutgers as well as a fellowship at California State University, Los Angeles to earn my community college counseling certification.”
Schmelter-Davis returned to New Jersey and in 1968 became the first Director of Financial Aid & Placement at Essex County College. He was part of the team that launched New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), and he was pursued by Brookdale Community College, where he enjoyed a long career as that institution’s first financial aid counselor as well as a counselor to the college’s nursing students.
“At that time, career education was an emerging concept,” Schmelter-Davis explains. “The career services program I developed at Brookdale was named as one of the five best at a community college, based on research by The College Board. We became a leader in best practices in career services.”
Schmelter-Davis became a sought-after career development education expert, which led to new avenues for his own career. “I developed the AT&T Career Development Program for technical staff at Bell Labs, and for three years I was manager of the Career Development Institute at the National Occupational Coordinating Committee, a program that used labor data to train high school and college career counselors,” he says.
“I co-developed and implemented a workforce and career development curriculum for RECRUIT, LLC, in Japan and trained thousands of counselors in the U.S. and Israel in the use of technology as part of one’s counseling practice as well,” Schmelter-Davis continues. He also notes that he is a certified instructor for an online course that satisfies the training requirement for the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) credential conferred by the Center for Credentialing and Education.
Schmelter-Davis never tires of finding new ways to develop his own career while encouraging others to learn and grow. Now a resident of Monmouth County’s Seabrook, an Erickson Adult Living Community for those 62 and older, he is busy developing the Seabrook Active Learners (SAL) program. “It is a peer-learning program modeled after the renowned Lifelong Peer Learning Program at City University of New York,” he explains. “This allows us to draw on the knowledge and talent within our community.”
SAL mini-courses cover a wide range of topics including art, history, film, literature, poetry, current events and science. Sessions are provided on-site at Seabrook and some are also shared with another Erickson community in Colorado via Zoom. The program gained popularity so quickly that Erickson provided seed funding to expand it.
Schmelter-Davis traces his love of learning to his Montclair experience. “I had such a memorable experience,” he says. “Montclair opened my world through the courses I took, and also through the many conversations I had with my professors. Special programs, such as the Collegiate Council for the United Nations, helped me build the self-confidence to lead. Plus, I got to shake hands with Eleanor Roosevelt!”
“Montclair instilled in me a love of learning,” Schmelter-Davis says reflectively, adding that, “Montclair graduates just don’t stop.”