Montclair State graduates remember favorite professors who were teachers and mentors, and whose wisdom has stayed with them throughout the years.
Exercise Science and Physical Education
Known as Dr. Desi, Professor Emerita Domenica Desiderioscioli, retired in June after 51 years at the University as a much-loved professor, administrator, coach and mentor. “Dr. Desi was more than a professor,” says Kacie Kellerman ’17. “She was a friend as well as a mentor to myself and other students. Her love, dedication and passion for the field of health and physical education was portrayed in every class she taught.”
First joining Montclair State Teachers College in 1966, Dr. Desi taught health and physical education classes at both the on-campus College High School and at Montclair State. She recalls that at the time, “Montclair State had approximately 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty had lunch in Life Hall Cafeteria. Everyone knew everyone on campus, as most faculty were in teacher education programs.”
Not only did she teach but she was the coach of the women’s fencing teams from 1966 to 1974 and during the 1980s, became secretary, then president, of the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association. She was inducted into the Montclair State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
“I learned from Dr. Desi about the importance of leadership,” says Judy LoBianco ’92, ’95 MA, who is now the Supervisor of Health, Physical Education and Nursing Services for the South Orange-Maplewood School District. “She instilled in me the drive and desire to lead in my profession in order to serve others rather than myself first.”
Through a Montclair State program that permitted faculty to gain administrative experience, Dr. Desi spent three years as an administrator, rising to acting vice president for Student Development and Campus Life in 1992. In that capacity, she worked with the executive committee to help the College attain university status in 1994, after which she returned to the faculty.
Although most visible as the Grand Marshal at the last six Commencement ceremonies, Dr. Desi is best known to her students for her caring. “As a freshman, I was amazed by Dr. Desi’s passion for physical education, its history and importance. Fifteen years later it amazes me how her passion and advocacy for her students and the subject have never faded,” says Steven Wehrle ’07.
“The importance of giving back is something I learned from Dr. Desi,” says Eric Eder ’94, now a physical education and health teacher at Nishuane School in Montclair. “She has been my mentor, and I can’t thank her enough.”
Dr. Desi served on or chaired numerous University and intercollegiate athletic committees, and served as the Montclair State faculty representative to the NCAA. She has remained active in the New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NJAHPERD), where she continues to serve on the Executive Board.
She is joined on the board by a former student, Christine Baccarella ’71. “I was most fortunate to have had [Dr. Desi] as a professor,” says Baccarella. “She and I have been able to collaborate professionally on the NJAHPERD Executive Board for the last 20 years. She has truly been a blessing in my life.”