Judy Graef’s path has led her along many exciting adventures, and Montclair State University was the first step.
Graef, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Education and Human Services and earned her master’s degree in Education, says she chose Montclair State for its highly regarded Home Economics program at the time. She got her first taste of travel as a junior when six students from different departments participated in a domestic exchange program to California, and then traveled to Europe after graduation, exploring abroad on $5 a day. Since then, she’s traveled across the seven continents – seeing the penguins in Antarctica, polar bears in the Arctic and tigers in the wild in Nepal.
“Be open to possibility in your life,” says Graef. “I’ve found that one step leads to another.”
Graef devoted her career to education, with her Montclair State education connecting her to a student teaching position in West Orange that turned into her first job. She taught as an adjunct professor at Montclair State for two years and then made the move to Bloomfield High School, taking on various chairperson and supervisory roles including director of personnel, and later served as head of personnel for Morris Hills Regional High School. Her commitment to follow her interests has led her to also become a published author, a breeder of English Setters and American Kennel Club Champions, and since retiring, a world traveler and avid photographer.
“My family always stressed the importance of education,” reflects Graef. “My mother was a biology teacher and my parents instilled in me that I would choose a profession and get the proper education to pursue that profession.”
Finding out about student hardship was the catapult that propelled Graef into philanthropic action, and she was shocked by the realization that Montclair State has a food pantry. “It struck my heart. If students are having trouble paying for food, how do they pay tuition? That was my motivation.”
“I don’t think many people realize the challenges students are facing to get an education,” she adds.
Graef has focused her Montclair State University giving to the Pay it Forward Emergency Scholarship, which assists students in need in their senior year. “These students have proven themselves through college and what I give can help them get across the line to complete their degree.”
“I’m comforted knowing that recipients of my gift money will be inclined to give back in the course of their lives as well,” she says.
As Graef pursues her philanthropic journey, she encourages her fellow donors: “Give what you can…no amount is too small when you realize the need and how much students will benefit from your generosity.”