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Lecture “Revolutionary Women: Girlfriends I’ve Made in 40 Years as a Historian”

Dr. Marie Mullaney will be the speaker at a Phi Kappa Phi Caldwell University Chapter lecture Oct. 12.

Caldwell, N.J., Sept. 25, 2017 “Revolutionary Women: Girlfriends I’ve Made in 40 Years as a Historian” will be the topic of a Phi Kappa Phi lecture presented by Historian Dr. Marie Mullaney at Caldwell University, 7 p.m., Thursday Oct. 12.

Dr. Mullaney, professor of history at Caldwell and a specialist in the history of women, will discuss the research and publishing she has done on a wide number of achieving women in the past.

“Some were really radicals; others were pathbreakers,” said Dr. Mullaney. Some of the women she will discuss include Mabel Smith Douglass, the founder of the New Jersey College for Women; Katharine Ryan Gibbs, the founder of the well-known Katherine Gibbs secretarial schools;  French anarchist Louise Michel; Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor; La Pasionaria of Spanish Civil War fame; and New Jersey communitarian Rebecca Buffum Spring.

In telling their stories, Dr. Mullaney will explain what it means to live a life as a professional academic and she will share stories of how her own teachers and her students have played a role in motivating her research. “Doing research has helped me become a better teacher and I want to share that advice with others, most especially students who are interested in pursuing research in any career field,” said Dr. Mullaney.

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is being presented by the Caldwell University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. It will be held on campus in the Alumni Theater.  Light refreshments will be served.  For more information, contact phikappaphi@caldwell.edu or Dr. Francie Del Vecchio at 973-618-3416.

Phi Kappa Phi’s mission is “To recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.” For more information about Phi Kappa Phi, visit www.PhiKappaPhi.org.

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Students Attend United Nations Leadership and Enrichment Programs

Minhtruc Nguyen, a senior at Caldwell University, was a volunteer at the United Nations for the forum on “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service and Entrepreneurship” run by the International Young Leaders Assembly.

Caldwell, N.J., Sept. 25, 2017 – Caldwell University students recently attended enrichment and leadership programs at the United Nations in New York City.

In August 19 students participated in “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service and Entrepreneurship” run by the International Young Leaders Assembly. The assembly is a partnership-driven leadership development program aimed at empowering young leaders to positively affect their communities, nations and the world.

Minhtruc Nguyen, a senior at Caldwell who was attending for her third time, was enthused that the speakers encouraged the students to work to change the world. “Sometimes we get tired on the way to success,” she said, but the program encourages students to “do more.” A financial economics and accounting major who transferred to Caldwell two years ago, Nguyen was happy to be asked to be a volunteer for the forum. As a result, she was invited to take the IBM leadership training program at the summit for which she received a certificate.

She looks forward to attending the International Young Leaders Assembly next year and hopes she can encourage more students as well as staff and faculty from Caldwell to attend.

Romina Ghale attended two forums at the United Nations–“Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service and Entrepreneurship” run by the International Young Leaders Assembly and the “Ear and Hearing Health as a Vehicle for Peace and Sustainable Development.”

Maulin Joshi, director of international student services, was pleased that the students attended the summit since it “empowers our young leaders to positively impact their communities and gives them an opportunity to join an excellent global network.”

Romina Ghale joined Nyugen at the conference. Gale also attended a forum titled “Ear and Hearing Health as a Vehicle for Peace and Sustainable Development” at the U.N. on Sept. 14. Hosted by the International Federation for Peace and Sustainable Development and the permanent mission of Guatemala to the United Nations, the day included educational sessions to understand the global impact of hearing impairment and efforts to increase funding nationally and internationally. Ghale said she was honored to hear the speakers including former President Bill Clinton and William B. Austin, founder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

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Book signing – Practices of Love, Sept. 25

Talk and book signing – “Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World”

The Caldwell University Department of Theology/Philosophy will host a talk and book signing with philosophy faculty member Kyle Bennett, Ph.D. on his new work “Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World”, noon to 1 p.m., Monday, Sept. 25. The event will be held on the first floor of the Newman Center (in the former bookstore location) on Caldwell’s campus. The public is invited to attend.

Spiritual disciplines are often viewed primarily as a means to draw us closer to God. While these practices do deepen and enrich our “vertical” relationship with God, Kyle David Bennett argues that they were originally designed to positively impact our “horizontal” relationships—with neighbors, strangers, enemies, friends, family, animals, and even the earth. Bennett explains that this “horizontal” dimension has often been overlooked or forgotten in contemporary discussions of the spiritual disciplines.

This book offers an alternative way of understanding the classic spiritual disciplines that makes them relevant, doable, and meaningful for everyday Christians. Bennett shows how the disciplines are remedial practices that correct the malformed ways we do everyday things, such as think, eat, talk, own, work, and rest. Through personal anecdotes, engagement with Scripture, and vivid cultural references, he invites us to practice the spiritual disciplines wholesale and shows how changing the way we do basic human activities can bring healing, renewal, and transformation to our day-to-day lives and the world around us.

Bennett is also program director of The Spirituality and Leadership Institute at Caldwell University, a summer program for high school students.


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Caldwell U Fans Pack Stadium for First Sprint Football Game


Caldwell, N.J. – Fans packed the stands for Caldwell University’s first-ever sprint football game Sept. 16.

Students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community came out to root for the Cougars, led by Head Coach Daryle Weiss, as the team faced the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.

In Caldwell style, they rolled out the red carpet, literally, with the rug running from a pre-game reception area to the stadium. President Nancy Blattner, Ph.D., was thrilled to mark the historic day, thanking all those who made it happen—“donors, friends who wanted to rally around football … prospective students, and families.” She performed the ceremonial coin toss, winning it for the Cougars. University of Pennsylvania Head Football Coach Bill Wagner presented Dr. Blattner with a league welcome gift of a 2016 Collegiate Sprint Football League football and a brochure on the 85-year history of sprint football.

Senior Irielis Garcia said sprint football has created a buzz with the students. “Everyone is supporting one another. It’s wonderful.”

“Loved the game. Really good turnout,” said freshman Antonia Duzic.

“A good bonding experience,” said freshman Thomas Dono.

Senior Katherine Langari was pleased to see that many students painted their faces and decorated their T-shirts and that other student-athletes supported the new team. “A lot of the sports are coming together.”

Senior Megan Ilievski saw the game as “a really good opportunity to hang out with friends and support the school.”

Alumna Ethel Maria Conroy ’83 came to support her daughter, cheerleader Maria Conroy-Covin. “I’m so excited. I’m overwhelmed in a good way. I couldn’t find a parking spot.”

With the sun beaming down, everyone was feeling the late summer heat. “We felt united as we perspired. It was a beautiful spirit,” said alumna Angela Zaccardi ’58.

The marching band comes out of a strong Music Department. With music faculty member Rebecca Vega at the helm, the 18 musicians and six color guards are looking forward to being an active organization at the sprint home games and at other events like Homecoming and open houses.

Drum major Micaela Andrews attended band leadership camp during the past two summers with Professor Vega. She was thrilled to be able to perform with the marching band. “We worked so hard leading up to the game and when we finally took the field, it really felt like we were making history for Caldwell.”

It took the hard work and commitment of several people to make sprint football a reality for Caldwell. Senior Vice President Joseph Posillico, Ed.D. and Assistant Vice President of Athletics Mark Corino were on the front lines with Dr. Blattner in researching the league and its fit for Caldwell. “It’s an amazing feeling seeing a concept and a dream come to life out on the field and to have this type of excitement surrounding the event,” said Dr. Posillico.

Don O’Hagan, chief information officer at Caldwell, was on the university’s football committee, which was led by Dr. Blattner. “She brought us all together on the football planning committee. She took the minutes! This first game was the culmination of many people working outside their job descriptions to make this happen,” said O’Hagan. Dr. Blattner thanked O’Hagan for spearheading the historic Game Day program, which included advertisements and messages of congratulations from community leaders and local businesses.  Board of Trustee member John Crawford worked in collaboration with Linda Maher and Graphic Imagery on creating the wonderful design of the program.

Sprint is a full-contact, intercollegiate varsity sport that has the same rules as regular college football. Players must weigh 178 pounds or less. The week leading up to the game was Spirit Week on campus. Events included a Friday night bonfire.

The Collegiate Sprint Football League has existed since before World War II and can boast of famous players like former President Jimmy Carter, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

The other members of the Collegiate Sprint Football League include Army West Point, Chestnut Hill College, Cornell University, Franklin Pierce University, Mansfield University, the U.S. Naval Academy, Post University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Caldwell’s upcoming home games are 1 p.m. Oct. 14 against Mansfield University and noon Oct. 28 against Franklin Pierce University.

For those who want to make road trips, the Caldwell Cougars are at Cornell University 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22; Post University noon Saturday, Sept. 30, and the U.S. Naval Academy 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3.

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Mass of the Holy Spirit – Caldwell Community Encouraged to be Open to God’s Will


The Caldwell University community gathered for Mass of the Holy Spirit to pray for guidance in and inspiration in the new school year. Traditionally the Mass of the Holy Spirit is a symbol of the beginning of the academic year at a Catholic university.

Reverend James Manos, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, was the celebrant.  “What are your gifts?” he asked of those in attendance. In order to know what God is calling one to do with his or her gifts, one has to be open to the spirit of God, said Father Manos.

Recalling the recent anniversary of 9-11, he spoke of Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan priest and chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, who died ministering to people at the site of the World Trade Center attacks. During his lifetime, Father Judge ministered to alcoholics, those who had AIDS, migrants and the marginalized, said Father Manos. “He brought more and more people closer to God…He was open to the spirit of God.”   Like Father Judge, we have to be open to what God is calling us to do, said Manos. At times it can be confusing, but if we sit quietly we will be able to hear God’s answer, he said.

Father Manos recalled the words of Father Judge who said “When I don’t know what’s next, I get down on my knees and pray, ‘Lord, take me, mold me, fashion me, show me what You want.’ Then I watch and listen and it will come.”

“So don’t fret,” said Manos. He told attendees they would get the answer if they were open to the Holy Spirit and God’s will.

President Nancy Blattner read a special blessing for the student-athletes, the resident life assistants, the Student Government Association officers and the university chorale.

Music Professor Laura Greenwald, members of the Caldwell University Chorale, accompanist Warren Helms, and cantor Rebecca Nee provided the music.

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Win prizes and celebrate Constitution Day!

Come celebrate Constitution Day on Friday 9/15/17 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the Library.

Complete the Constitution Day Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win a $30 gift card to the bookstore! Contest open to any Caldwell University student.

More activities are available:

Complete the Constitution Day Scavenger Hunt for prizes!

Watch streaming video from the National Constitution Center

Try out a sample Naturalization Test and see if you could pass

Interact with the Constitution via the Constitution Center’s iPad app

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Junior Nursing Students Receive White Coats for Start of Clinicals

Photo courtesy of nursing student Jewelz Lopez's father.

Studying to be a nurse can be tough, challenging and rewarding all at the same time. One of the rewards comes when junior nursing students are honored at the White Coat Ceremony as they start their clinical work in hospitals and health care centers. Fifty-six Caldwell University nursing students hit that milestone Thursday, Sept. 7, when they received their white coats and their Humanism in Medicine pins.

Dr. Brenda Petersen, associate dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, greeted the audience of students, faculty, staff, family members and friends who gathered for the joyful occasion. Addressing the students she said, “You commit yourselves today to the service to others and to work toward the greater good for all.”

Dr. Kathleen Kelley, assistant director and associate professor in the School of Nursing and Public Health, told the juniors that their white jackets symbolize their professional identity and will remind them of the ideals that have always characterized professional nursing such caring and compassion toward the people they serve. “It is personally delivered by your faculty as a gift of faith, confidence and compassion. The oath that you take today binds you to that professional commitment toward patient-centered care,” said Kelley of the pledge the students read as they accepted the responsibilities of the nursing profession.

Senior Natalie Pedri gave a powerful talk about her journey in being diagnosed with a stage-four Wilms’ tumor, a pediatric cancer, and having to leave school for a year for surgery and treatment. During a self-assessment, which she had learned to perform in nursing class, she found the large mass that led her to get medical care. She said that having cancer allowed her to see nursing from a patient’s perspective and that she was grateful to the nurses who cared for her and to the supportive Caldwell nursing faculty, in particular Kelley, who had gone through breast cancer herself. “Being a patient wasn’t easy, but I learned that it’s the nurses that make the difference in your experience. They are the ones who advocate for you, are by your side 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and help you throughout the difficult time. I now know from my own experience the kind of nurse I want to be.”

Nursing junior Jewelz Lopez was moved by Pedri’s talk. “It made me feel more connected to my major, to what it is all about,” said Lopez.

Dr. Barbara Chesler, vice president for academic affairs, told the students that wearing the white coat is a sign that they take their professional choice seriously and that they understand the commitment they are making to themselves, to their families and to the Nursing Department. Acknowledging that there will be struggles, Chesler told the students they will meet those challenges. “You’ll rise because your strength as a nurse is not determined by one grade, one shift of one job. It’s an ongoing journey of learning, honor, humility and a chance to make even the smallest difference in the lives of your patients.”

The juniors were thrilled to receive their coats. “Glad to be on my way to achieving my dreams,” said Jacqueline Garcia. “Feels like the first day of the rest of my life,” said Lucia Siniscalchi. “Happy I made it this far,” said Akiel Morris. “So excited for everything. Hopefully I will be a good nurse,” said Sarah Koritam.

There were many proud parents in the audience. “So excited; it’s emotional. I was expecting this at the end of the two years,” said Siniscalchi’s mother, Maria.

The Humanism in Medicine pins are a gift from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, initiators of the White Coat Ceremony.

Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien gave the invocation and benediction.

Dr. Nan Childress Orchard, chair of the Music Department, provided the processional and recessional music.

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Bringing character education (and penguins) alive in the classroom

Education Division adjunct Catherine Lundquist, Ph.D., brings character education alive in the classroom

If you walk into Dr. Cathy Lundquist’s undergraduate courses Early Childhood Education Curriculum or Methodology you might bump into a penguin—a waddling one that will make you waddle and sing a penguin song.

Under that costume, is none other than Lundquist herself, a veteran elementary school teacher who is passionate about character education and teaching the next generation of students how to make the classroom come alive. “I try to bring my kindergarten classroom to the Caldwell classroom.” The backdrop to the penguin story is a learning center—“pretty trendy now,” says Lundquist. The undergrads get to observe a live lesson plan with social studies in one corner, science in another, language arts in another. “For each letter of penguin, they write an acrostic poem,” she says. “In the math corner they count the number of rocks and the eggs the penguin lays. In the phonics corner—‘alphabet central’—we go on and on about the letter ‘p’; my penguin costume is a word wall,” she explains. The goal is to connect all the core content areas back to the one piece of literature.

Kindergartners get excited that their teacher is dressed up as a penguin. They close their eyes and listen to the sound of the water and to the penguins gathering. At the end everyone in the classroom joins the penguin in diving into the “water”—the blue tablecloth, where the children are spying for seals.

This is just one of six thematic units that Lundquist programs to motivate her kindergarten students at the national Blue Ribbon school, Cedar Hill Elementary in Montville, New Jersey, where she has been teaching for over three decades. Engaging students, no matter their age, has been her passion. “Everyone needs to know that they are noticed and appreciated and respected. That’s the common thread from kindergarten all the way through the university,” she says.

“I need to be so prepared for kindergarten. There isn’t a moment that I’m not doing for them.” As for graduate students, “They have amazing questions. I can see that they are advocates for children.” The undergrads “don’t blink. They just listen.” Since many undergrads have not been in the classroom yet, they want to hear everything, she says.

Lundquist has long had a passion for character education, and that is evident when she teaches courses at the university such as Reading Challenges, Methods, Reading Assessments or the writing course. “I don’t think teachers can teach unless those (character ed) characteristics are in place.” They are benign values that no parent or administration will disagree with—joyfulness, honesty, compassion, empathy and caring, she says.

At Cedar Hill Lundquist has incorporated character education into the classroom with four touchstones: respect for self, others, community and property. She’s the liaison between fifth-graders and administration for character education. The students create their own service projects, including sponsorship of a brother in Ghana. They pay for his schooling, room and board. Because of its work in character ed, Cedar Hill has been named a National School of Character.

Lundquist has a master’s in special education; she did her thesis on character education, and she holds a Ph.D. from Fordham in language, learning and literacy.

She has been asked to share her experiences with other professionals. Last fall Lundquist was a panelist at the National Character Education Forum in Washington, D.C. She was the keynote speaker at the Caldwell University Education Division’s early childhood conference in the spring. Her message centers on the importance of instilling self-efficacy in students. “Whether you have met with success or not, if you have the motivation to try something,
the perseverance, the resiliency to keep coming back, those are character-ed traits,” she explains.

Lundquist believes that if teachers can get students to embrace self-efficacy early on, the children will gain a stick-to-it-tiveness that serves them as they learn to read and as adults throughout life. This also helps create a classroom atmosphere. “It is very difficult to have your classroom gel” at the elementary school level, but there are opportunities throughout the day “to salt and pepper your classroom” with character education. This approach underpins performance “academically, socially and emotionally—teaching to the whole child,” she says.

After seeing generations of children pass through her classroom, Lundquist knows a good teacher has to continually develop professionally, apply experience and look to the times. “Society changes; children don’t. Parenting changes. Their love of their child doesn’t. The way they go about displaying it and executing it, so to speak, is different, so we have to understand that.” This is especially true in a society “that is sometimes very challenging and empathy and compassion are not at the top of the list,” she says.

These are lessons she hopes the Caldwell undergraduate and graduate students she teaches will bring to their classrooms. “My hope is that they create a safe, loving, warm environment for every student and that their desire is to make a difference, even if it is just for one.”


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Maureen Lynch ’67: Making a Difference for Generations of Kids

Dr. Maureen Lynch (right) in Haiti with her good friend Dr. Elaine Farrell.  The two trained together at Boston Children’s Hospital

Once, when Cambridge, Massachusetts pediatrician Maureen Lynch was on rounds in medical school, her group came upon a patient who had been admitted because she fainted every time she went to the hairdresser. The rather overbearing instructor asked each person in the group, “What is it?” She returned at the end to Lynch, who had diagnosed a colloid cyst of the third ventricle. “How did you know that?” asked the instructor, to which Lynch replied, “I saw it on ‘Marcus Welby.’”

Lynch’s mantra: “It doesn’t matter where you learn something as long as you remember it.” This says a great deal about Lynch: her insatiable interest in diagnosis and absolute disregard of status and image.

When Lynch was 10 years old, her mother contracted Eastern equine encephalitis and lapsed into a coma. Because she and her sister took alternate weeks off from school to care for their mother, Lynch had a great deal of contact with physicians. During that time her self-described “feeling of helplessness” became a desire to practice medicine.

At Caldwell, she was a leading biology student. Her fierce determination, coupled with her intelligence and drive, earned Lynch the distinction of class valedictorian.

The week before her sister’s wedding, just as Lynch was about to enter medical school, her father died of a heart attack, leaving her with the sole responsibility of caring for her invalid mother. Lynch worked as a pharmacological researcher for four years and earned a master’s degree at New York University. She then entered the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, receiving her delayed M.D. in 1975, and completed her internship and residency at Boston Children’s Hospital, earning a fellowship in adolescent medicine. Lynch then joined the Harvard University Group Health Plan, caring for children and serving as the pediatric department’s head for more than 33 years.

Earlier this year, when the plan outsourced pediatrics, Lynch continued as its medical director, and she still works at Children’s Hospital, serving as assistant in gynecology and assistant clinical professor since 1979. In this role she provides clinical care to infant and adolescent girls made vulnerable by developmental and/or physical disabilities.

Asked what has changed the most in her years of pediatric practice, Lynch replies, “The kids are the same; kids are great!” One of the challenges, she says, has been the impact of the internet and parents’ access to a surfeit of information. Many who research online sources think they have diagnosed their child’s problem and/or discovered a solution. Lynch asks them to describe their worst fear and then dispels it with dispatch. She says she views her job as ruling out potential problems so parents can sleep. “Let me worry until it’s time to worry,” is her regular, gently spoken admonition to parents.

Lynch says she has been “blessed with a good education and a wonderful profession.” In her desire to give back, for 14 consecutive years she has traveled to Haiti with a team of doctors working under the umbrella of the Haiti Mission of the United Methodist Church.

In her scarce leisure time she is a “sucker for rom-coms, particularly those from Nora Ephron,” and enjoys spending time in London and on Cape Cod with her husband, Roger Stacey.

“Maureen has a reputation for being quite outspoken, especially about things she really cares about,” he says. “The maddening thing is that she is almost always right.” Her sage advice for Caldwell students: “Try to do the right things and fight for what you believe in.” And in terms of choosing a career: “Know your passion and follow your heart.”

“I know I make a difference,” she says, adding, “As I come to the end of a successful career, I am now in a position to motivate young people. I couldn’t have asked for a better ride in this life.”

—Christina Hall,
with thanks to Roger Stacey

Featured News, Natural and Physical Sciences News, News

Agnes Berki: Expanding Research Efforts and Inspiring Students

Enjoying a roller coaster ride at Six Flags with your professor might not be what students are expecting when they decide to study science with Dr. Agnes Berki, yet that is exactly the kind of unexpected adventure that awaits them. “We tried many rides and screamed together on many of them. We all had a great time!” recalled Berki, as if a day of laughter at a theme park is routine for biology students. Yet for Berki, who regularly treats her students to excursions like field trips or dinner, all the screams and laughter are for a serious purpose. “These outside activities are important. Those experiences transform the class into a team, and later, into a true research team.”

For Berki, an associate professor of biology in the Natural and Physical Sciences Department, inspiring her students to take on new challenges together is critical to success. At first glance, these extracurricular activities may not seem necessary, but Berki emphasizes the important role they play in forging a bond among her students and transforming them from simply classmates into a team. “This transition happens every year, sometimes quicker, and sometimes it takes a longer time, but it happens eventually, and that is the point when students become one team. They feel freer to help each other, to ask advice, to give or accept constructive criticism.” It is important, she says, for students to realize that research is a team effort –“that in a team we all work for the same goal, and we all matter; all of our opinions are valued. The fun activities make the class more enjoyable, and they also help to build friendships.”

Facing challenges, embracing change and keeping an upbeat outlook have been themes throughout much of Berki’s life. Born in Hungary, she grew up with Russian troops everywhere. The atmosphere was oppressive. “You couldn’t say anything. There was no freedom of speech.” This lack of freedom was driven home when her father, who had been a successful lawyer, refused to sign an execution order for political prisoners. “They said okay, you will not wind up in Siberia but you cannot practice. So he changed his career and went into business.” Berki’s curiosity drove her to question her father about the political situation, but he would respond, “I can’t tell you because even the walls have ears.”

Despite the presence of troops, Berki recalls her childhood fondly, noting that her father, “one of the greatest influences of my life,” bought her a piano and taught her how to take care of herself by learning useful skills like fixing her bike. He encouraged her to have confidence in her intelligence and her ability to learn. The only time she brought home a bad grade, Berki came to her father crying. “He said to me, ‘You can stop crying. I’m not going to punish you. You see all the marks you ever get in life, you get for yourself. You’re not getting it for me. So if you get a good mark, it’s to your credit. And if you get a bad mark, it’s your fault. It doesn’t matter for me whether you get good or bad marks. I will still love you. You study for yourself.’ From that time on, I was never afraid.”

Berki’s father found great success in business, the career forced upon him. The family moved frequently, and Berki attended two kindergartens before changing schools several times more. Just before the eighth grade, the family moved again, this time a half-hour from her previous school, but when it came time to start a new one, Berki put her foot down. “I told my dad, ‘Okay, I am not going to a new school for the eighth grade,’ so I traveled on the bus every day so I didn’t have to go to a new school.”

Moving frequently as a child helped Berki when it came time for her to move to the United States. “We moved so many times that it prepped me for a big move over the ocean.” She was just 26 years old and six months away from finishing a Ph.D. program in neuroscience when she relocated to the U.S. The move was difficult since she did not speak English. She had to restart all her studies. Without the support of her family and friends, it would have been a struggle to adjust to her new country.

“Coming here was a big shock for many different reasons. The windows open differently; the faucets work differently—I burned myself many times. For the first three months, I wrote a letter to my mom every day.” It took Berki a year to learn English, helped along by watching the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” daily. America was completely different from her homeland. “We grew up in an environment where you always have to watch out. And then you come here, and compared to there, it is a vacuum. You can say anything. You can think anything. It’s a big shock culturally and politically.”

She began working as a special volunteer in the neuroscience lab at the National Institutes of Health. “I worked there for three months, and I was lucky because in the lab where I worked there was a Hungarian lady, so she taught me.” Berki learned polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a method used for the Human Genome Project. “I had a great relationship with them. I got recommendation letters from them.” After leaving the NIH, she got a job at the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Pharmacy as a lab technician, preparing the lab for experiments. She continued studying English and took the GRE.

“After two years, I started to realize the beauty of the United States and the beauty of freedom and free speech.” While only six months away from finishing her Ph.D. back in Hungary, Berki began the incredible challenge of starting over again at the Maryland school of pharmacy. Majoring in molecular biology with a minor in pharmaceutical sciences, Berki finished her Ph.D. The initial setback of starting over “made me a stronger person. I don’t shy away from challenges.” When anyone doubts her ability to achieve a goal, she becomes even more determined. She recalled how someone once told her she would never receive a hefty—and very competitive—nationwide scholarship, so she set out to prove the person wrong and wound up being awarded a significant portion of the scholarship. “I only applied because someone said I could never get it.”

In 2006, Berki became a senior scientist at Schering-Plough Research Institute where she oversaw research, development and improvements of assay methodologies. In 2010, she became senior scientist and virologist at Gibraltar Laboratories, Inc., handling composition and submission of laboratory reports to clients. Also in 2010, Berki came to Caldwell and immediately began to make her mark. “I am fortunate to teach at Caldwell University. The same ideology of developing well-rounded individuals in a nurturing and supporting environment, which was the inspiration of the founding Sisters of St. Dominic almost a century ago, is still the heart and soul of our institution today.” After crossing an ocean to start anew, Berki says, “I think I am where I am supposed to be.”

In only a short time, Berki has become a guiding force in the university’s goal to expand its research efforts, starting with inspiring her students to embrace Caldwell’s challenges and benefits.

Berki does independent research with students, helping them to select the best focus from a list of 10 potential topics and then guiding them through the process of writing a proposal for money. “Our greatest supporter is the Independent College Fund of New Jersey. It’s a wonderful thing because it’s a students’ idea and it’s funded by an outside source to be completed. It looks awesome on their résumés.” Known for staying late on campus—sometimes until midnight—to work with her students on their research, Berki has inspired many to strive for the highest standards. As recent biology graduate Eva Suchar says, “When I presented my research, it really felt like working with Dr. Berki was prize enough.”

Berki guides the students through conducting research and then creating the posters for their presentations, which requires working all the way through Saturday and Sunday. They then spend the week before their conference practicing presentations. “That’s another long day because they take turns so one will give a presentation, and then we give pointers and feedback and they practice again. We do it as many times until we say, ‘Okay, that is good.’” Berki motivates her students to embrace the hard work and challenges, to seek knowledge to better themselves, much in the same way her father taught her so many years ago, when she tearfully brought home a bad grade, to be unafraid to fail.

She has been chair of the university’s Research Task Force, which held the first Caldwell Research and Creative Arts Day this past April. Berki hopes the annual research day will increase visibility inside and outside the university and highlight all the outstanding research being conducted at Caldwell. She is always emphasizing to her students how important it is to become engaged in research, as they will learn teamwork, interpersonal skills, troubleshooting and analysis, which graduate schools and prospective employers highly value.

Berki has very high hopes for her students. “We have more and more students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in different fields of science. My very first honors student is focused on going into a Ph.D. program. And now I have a freshman who wants to get a Ph.D. in neuroscience.”

But Berki wants her students not only to stand out in their fields, but more important, to be upstanding human beings. “I truly hope they will always remember that paying attention to details, hard work and integrity will always pay off no matter what careers they choose and what they will do in their lives.” Her father chose to start over again rather than be a part of something unjust, and in the process he became a successful businessman and an inspiration to his daughter. Berki too has had to unexpectedly start over again, only to achieve success and joy that she cherishes. It’s no wonder there is so much wisdom in her advice to students. “I hope they will keep in mind that life is not a straight march.”

One day over the summer, Berki came in to her office to work, only to find an envelope from a recent graduate taped to her door. Written on it were the words “Legjobb Tanar”—Hungarian for “the best teacher.” Indeed.  n

—By Sara Courtney

Things you might not know about Agnes Berki

Her favorite book is “The Ingenious Nobleman Mister Quixote of La Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes. Berki is inspired by Don Quixote and his ability to see the good in each person he meets. “He is also able to make people realize their own value and help them embrace it, touching their life for the better.”

She sings with the Caldwell Music Department’s choir. “I love to sing and I sang all my life. I was always a part of church choirs in every church I’ve attended. Sometimes I was a part of two choirs.” While in Baltimore, she attended the historic St. Alphonsus Church and was a member of the regular English choir and the Latin choir.