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Caldwell University Unveils Multicultural Center Named for first African American Student

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Caldwell, N.J., May 10, 2019 – Caldwell University unveiled its new multicultural center on Thursday, May 9.  The Eileen Jones Multicultural Center is named after Eileen Jones, Esq. ’57, the first African American student to attend and graduate from Caldwell University.

President Nancy H. Blattner, Ph.D., OPA welcomed friends of Jones, alumni, students, staff, faculty and other guests to the dedication and official opening.

“In recognition of all the wonderful cultures that make up the Caldwell University family, this center will serve as a resource for the promotion of multicultural awareness, understanding and appreciation,” said Blattner. “In the spirit of our core values of Respect, Integrity, Community, and Excellence, this will be a place where a variety of programs and events are hosted with the goal of a creating a learning community.”

Blattner explained that Jones earned her B.A. in social studies from Caldwell and then went on to earn a J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law. In 1977, Jones was the first woman appointed chief of the administrative review staff for compensation and pension at the Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington, D.C.  In 1981, she returned to Newark and became the assistant director for the Veterans Administration.  Among the many honors she received, Jones was one of three inaugural recipients of the Caldwell Veritas Award in 1986, an annual award given to celebrate professional excellence of Caldwell alumni.

“Eileen was a smart and motivated woman, and a trailblazer in many ways,” said Blattner.  “Eileen was kind, funny, and warm, and had an infectious smile and really good sense of humor.”

Jones was involved in the community, holding executive positions at the Arts Council of Orange and the Orange Community Advisory Board, and was she also involved with the Newark Museum, the Civic Action League, and Caldwell’s EOF Program.

A lifetime supporter of Caldwell University, in 2015, Jones established a scholarship to help high achieving students with financial need.  Before her passing in January 2019, she donated a gift of property to the university with the intention that the proceeds of its sale be used to establish a multicultural center on campus.

Angela Zaccardi, also an alumna, said she and Jones met when they were both at what was then Caldwell College for Women. They “remained friends forever…she was a great lady and very thorough,” said Zaccardi.

Maud Carroll and her daughter Denise Carroll were among the guests thrilled to be celebrating the dedication.   Maud remembers teaching music to Eileen beginning when she was eight years old and to her sister who became an accomplished musician.    Anna Layton, of East Orange, New Jersey, who met Jones back in the 1940s, was also happy to be at the celebration.  “Eileen was always there for me.”  Also attending was Ernestine Polhill, of Orange, New Jersey, who said that before Jones passed away they had talked about attending the Center dedication together.  “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”

The opening prayer was given by student Dennis Martin of the class of 2021.