Voices of Castle Point
Voices from Castle Point at the Samuel C. Williams Library was originally conceived to document the experiences of women at Stevens (first made coeducational in 1971) — a group underrepresented in the Archives and Special Collections.
Oral histories encompass the unique perspectives of individuals who might otherwise be absent from the historical record. Collecting and sharing these stories provides an invaluable glimpse into the past through the lens of human experience that serves to preserve the richness and diversity of our shared cultural heritage. This project has since been expanded to encompass all interested Stevens alumni, faculty, and staff.
Enrique Blanco was born in Cuba but lived all over the world. Enrique spent the first nine years of his life in Cuba, but after the communist regime took over his family fled to Miami. Later, the family moved to New York briefly and then lived in Chile, Brazil, Jamaica, and Venezuela. In Enrique’s senior year of high school, his family moved back to the United States, settling in New York City.
In this clip, Enrique talks about his family's journey to the United States, why he decided to attend Stevens instead of Columbia University and the most important takeaway from his education.
Bruce Blondina grew up in Pequannock, NJ, and was the first in his family to go to college. In this clip, Bruce talks about what it was like to live on the SS Stevens, the floating dormitory that was used as lodging for students on the Hudson River from 1968-1975. Bruce elaborates on the ship environment and explains in detail how treacherous the makeshift path (known by the students as the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”) to the SS Stevens was. Bruce also talks about the annual races up and down the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" that the students participated in. Bruce attended Stevens when it became coeducational in 1971, and talks about how some of the students were not thrilled that women were being admitted and provides further context of that time period in general. He goes on to compare how much Stevens had changed when his own daughter attended Stevens later on, graduating in 2012. One of the most noticeable improvements was that the campus had a lot more events and support for students when his daughter attended, and the female student population had greatly increased. In addition, Bruce reminisces on some of his favorite Stevens memories, including the time he went running with the famous comedian Dick Gregory, who was a guest speaker at Stevens in 1972!
Alvaro Richard “Dick” Boera grew up in Staten Island, NY and graduated from Stevens in 1946. He was the first in his family to go to college. His father was in the restaurant business and owned a family restaurant on Staten Island. Boera attended Princeton for his first year of his college education and studied aeronautical engineering for one year, and then enlisted in the Navy and enrolled in the V-12 training program and since Princeton didn’t have that program, he was sent to Stevens Institute of Technology where he lived in the River Street barracks while there. He retells in this clip how the V-12 program at Stevens was well organized and very efficient for their Naval training, and how he learned a lot at a fast pace. After the V-12 program, he was sent to midshipmen school at Columbia which was more accelerated training for about three months before heading overseas. During World War II Boera was stationed on a USS Portsmouth cruiser for almost a year.
In this oral history clip, Boera remembers his time at Stevens and especially the faculty which left a lasting impression. He mentions that all of the professors were quite old because the younger ones were all drafted into the war effort. He distinctly remembered Professor Charles O. Gunther, who had been at Stevens since he graduated from there himself in 1900 and recounts him as being a superb math teacher who really engaged well with the students. In addition, he retells a great story of the time that he met Albert Einstein when he was at Princeton and had tea with him in his home. When he left Einstein’s house, he took a picture with Einstein and had him sign his liberty card. Unfortunately, the photo came out double-exposed, but he still has the signed liberty card!
Bill Caldwell grew up in Inwood, New York, and graduated from Stevens in 1943 with a mechanical engineering degree. He wanted to go to Stevens because his father was an engineer. While at Stevens he was a member of the Chi Phi fraternity, lived in Palmer Hall his first year at Stevens and attended the Stevens summer engineering camp in Johnsonburg, New Jersey. Before his graduation from Stevens Caldwell enlisted into the Navy, and after graduation he received naval training at Cornell University, which was right before the V-12 program was started in the summer of 1943. By 1944 he was overseas and served in the Atlantic on the USS Decatur DD-341, a four-stacker destroyer, and the USS Franklin CV-13, an aircraft carrier. As stated in his oral history clip, their main function during the war was “hunting for German submarines.” After his time with the Navy, Caldwell had a long career with Con Edison, and worked his way up to the position of Senior Vice President in charge of Power Supply in Westchester County, New York.
Caldwell passed away on his 100th birthday on March 2, 2022.
In this oral history clip, Caldwell talks about his time overseas during World War II, and his experience at Stevens. Some of his memories include his extreme fondness for Professor Pond in the chemistry department, and his time at the Stevens summer engineering camp in Johnsonburg, New Jersey which was a great time with his classmates!
Vicente Citarella was born and raised in Cuba. Before he attended Stevens, he had already spent three years at the University of Villanueva in Havana, Cuba. He immigrated to the United States in 1960 at age twenty by himself. His parents were able to follow him over in 1962, two months after he graduated from Stevens.
In this clip, Vicente talks about his journey from Cuba to the United States, why he decided to attend Stevens, the supportive help he received at the University, and the creation of the Latin American Club (a club that is still going strong today!). Vicente was not only the very first President of the Latin American Club, but he was second in his class and gave the salutatory address at his graduation. Afterward, he went on to receive his Master's in Management Science from Stevens in 1966.
Martha Connolly, ‘75 was born and raised in Nanuet, NY, where both of her parents worked as teachers. She first learned about Stevens from her uncle, Karl E. Schlachter, who had graduated from there in 1945. In this clip Martha talks about why she chose Stevens and her first impressions of the campus and the city of Hoboken. She also recalls her first trip to campus where former Director of Admissions, Dean Robert Seavey, took her on a personal tour of campus and seemed to know every student by their first name, which made a profound impression on her. She also reminisces about Glee Club (the first campus group to include women) and recounts an infamous campus prank, which turned the tables on the male students. Listen to the clip to find out more! Martha was amongst the first class of women admitted to Stevens in 1971, when it officially became coeducational.
In part two of this clip, Connolly talks in detail about her career after Stevens, and the confidence she gained professionally while enduring difficult situations and stereotypes of sometimes being the only woman biochemist. She also talks about the additional challenges of balancing motherhood with a demanding career. At the end of the interview, she advises future generations of women to not “let anyone intimidate you into silence when you have something to say.”
Stevens alumni, Gerry Crispin (left) and Ed Eichhorn (right) met at Stevens and became lifelong friends (best men at each other's weddings!). They sat down with recent graduate, Olivia Schreiber '18, and talked about the heated political climate during the Vietnam War while they were in school and how it affected life on campus and locally.
In addition, one of the most infamous campus pranks is detailed by the participants themselves. According to them, this prank marked the end of senior trips at Stevens for good.
John Dalton was born and raised in Jersey City in a predominantly Irish, Polish, and Italian neighborhood. He entered Stevens with his identical twin brother Ed. They were the first in their immediate family to attend college. Both received General Motors scholarships to attend Stevens.
John and Ed were some of the first students to reside in the newly constructed Hayden Hall dormitory. John was a member of the Delt fraternity, wrote for the Stute newspaper (where he was also Headlines and Rewrite Editor), and was the Editor of the Link yearbook in his senior year.In this clip, John talks about his first impression of Stevens, his favorite classes and professors, and the climate on campus when the administration decided to tear down the historic building known as “Castle Stevens.”
Michael Danon was born in Zagreb, Croatia (Yugoslavia at the time), to a Sephardic Jewish family. At the beginning of the Nazi occupation in Europe, Michael and his family were removed from a train on the way to Italy. He was then separated from his parents at the age of four, which would be the last time he saw his father, who later died in a concentration camp. His mother managed to escape the camp she was sent to and was reunited with Michael and his brother Leonard in Northern Italy. As Jewish refugees during World War II, they needed to go into hiding at times to stay safe until the Nazi threat was over.
In this clip, Michael talks about his family's courageous journey to the United States as Jewish refugees. Their journey would take them through different parts of Italy and then Ecuador, before settling in Long Beach, New York.
Michael’s first choice for college was actually Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but after a brief stint there, he happily graduated from Stevens in 1960.
Malena Higuera, ‘75 talks about immigrating from Cuba with her family after the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy in 1963. In this clip, she talks about her first impressions of Hoboken, why she chose Stevens, and how she got to be among the first class of women admitted to Stevens when the university became coed in 1971. A Hoboken High School graduate, Malena was the university’s first Latin American woman to graduate.
Joelle Hinds was born and raised in New York City to parents who had immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago. Stevens was not on her radar until a friend's father (who was an alumnus) knew of her great potential in mathematics and told her about the school.
Joelle was accepted into Stevens and went through the intense six-week STEP Bridge summer program before she could start as a young freshman (at age 16!) before graduating with a degree in Engineering Management.
In this clip, Joelle talks about her experience with the STEP Bridge program, her favorite classes and teachers from Stevens, and offers some good advice for young women entering Stevens now.
Son of Irish immigrants from Portadown, Northern Ireland, Richard (Dick) Magee was the first in his family to attend college, something that his mother always dreamed of. Dick’s decision to attend Stevens was tied to his excelling at science and mathematics and Stevens’ excellent reputation. Also, he wanted to stay close to home in Maplewood, NJ to help his mom and younger sister, who struggled after his father passed away when he was sixteen years old. ?>
Dick only applied to Stevens, so when his application got misplaced and he did not hear from them, he was worried that he missed his chance to attend college. Thankfully, Stevens rectified the problem and notified Dick that he was admitted to Stevens and provided the necessary financial aid. Dick would go on to receive a B.S. in 1963, a M.S. in 1964, and then a Sc.D in 1968. After completing his doctorate, Dick started teaching at Stevens and was a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering department until he left for a bigger promotion offered at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in 1987. He was awarded the Stevens Lifetime Service Award in 2019.
In this interview clip Dick talks about his first impressions of Stevens, how he worked and earned tuition money before entering Stevens, financial aid opportunities, why he turned down an opportunity with Bell Labs and M.I.T., and mentors at Stevens that made a life-long impact on him.
Robert Mahran, 52, decided to go to Stevens because he wanted to be an engineer and his uncle had gone there, but at first, he wasn't accepted to Stevens! When he was accepted to every other university (including MIT) he applied to besides Stevens he visited campus to plead his case. Thankfully, he was successful and started his first year at Stevens in the fall of 1948. Even though his first year was challenging, he persevered and was grateful for everything he learned at Stevens. In this oral history clip, Robert discusses some memorable experiences at Stevens, including his chemistry professor who happened to be a coffee expert, and the now inactive Stevens engineering summer camp in Johnsonburg, NJ. He also reminisced about his long and extraordinary career at IBM, his first job after graduating from Stevens, and where he stayed for almost the entirety of his career. Robert's career at IBM included extensive travel, and he was able to visit every IBM manufacturing facility worldwide!
James E. McClellan III grew up in a small town, Gatesville, Texas. The eldest son of four, Dr. McClellan briefly spent his early years as a Texan cowboy, working on his grandfather’s ranch!
McClellan left Texas for Columbia University in 1964. Part of the appeal of Columbia University for McClellan was the strong core curriculum there. He started out as a chemistry major but received a degree in French instead. The Vietnam War was going on while he attended Columbia, which coincided with a discovery of the university’s involvement with the war. There was also a huge controversy about the construction of a gymnasium in Morningside Heights, which would displace local residents. In the spring of 1968, the campus was dominated by student demonstrations which led to the students shutting down the university and occupying campus buildings for days. McClellan was a part of the student demonstrations on campus and occupied the math building during this time. When the NYPD raided the buildings to shut down the demonstrations, over 700 students were arrested. McClellan was one of these students, spending a night in prison (known as “the tombs” back then).
In this oral history clip Dr. McClellan explains in detail the anxiety that surrounded young men with the climate of the Vietnam War era and the draft, the student uprisings at Columbia University in 1968, and his early trajectory and academic philosophy which led him to Stevens in 1977 when the faculty strike was just winding down. Dr. McClellan was made Professor Emeritus at Stevens in 2016 when he retired.
A great takeaway quote from Dr. McClellan is, “it’s not enough just to absorb information but you have to make a contribution to knowledge.”
Jean Savitsky, '85 was born in Queens, New York and is the daughter of first-generation parents. Both her paternal and maternal grandparents were immigrants from Ukraine. Jean's father, Dan Savitsky '52 first introduced her to Stevens, as he had joined Davidson Laboratory at Stevens in 1947, first as an engineer on staff then as the Head of Davidson Laboratory towards the end of his career which spanned over 70 years at Stevens! In this oral history clip interviewed by Stevens student Katherine Ohotin '25, Jean discusses the challenges at Stevens in her first year and the extra pressure she felt to do well with her father's esteemed reputation on campus. Jean ended up gravitating towards the program of Systems, Planning, and Management, which was a newer curriculum at that time and was a combination of industrial engineering and management. In addition, she discusses being able to access the Frederick W. Taylor Collection archival materials at Stevens, which was meaningful since Frederick W. Taylor (Stevens Class of 1883) was the father of scientific management and industrial engineering. Jean talks about how she used her knowledge of industrial engineering throughout her illustrious career which first started at the Port Authority and is still going strong as she is now the Director of Real Estate and Sustainability at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, NY.
Joe Schneider ‘46Joe Schneider was the son of Swiss-German immigrants and grew up in Guttenberg, New Jersey. He worked in the embroidery business for close to 80 years, as northern New Jersey was well known as the “Embroidery Capital of the World.” When World War II started in American Schneider knew that the draft was coming and he didn’t want to be drafted into the Army, so he went down to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and enlisted in the Navy. Since the V-12 program at Stevens Institute of Technology had just recently started in 1943, he was sent over to Stevens for his training. The first in his family to get a college education, Schneider was extremely grateful for his mechanical engineering degree from Stevens.
In this oral history clip, Schneider talks about his career in embroidery, what life was like in the Navy and being stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, his time at Stevens where he lived in Palmer Hall, ate meals at Castle Stevens, and played pranks on his classmates. Schneider had a lot of fond memories and good times at Stevens!
The well-loved and always lighthearted Schneider was a regular fixture at Stevens events for many years and was extremely dedicated to his Alma Mater. He passed away on January 2, 2022, at the age of 97.
Tuyet-Hanh Schnell 91', was born in Vietnam and her family left during the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975. Being sponsored as refugees by a church in New Jersey brought Tuyet-Hanh and her family out to the United States, residing in New Jersey where they would start over. Tuyet-Hanh remembers bringing just one doll and one bag as they left for their new home. When she was enrolled in second grade in New Jersey she did not know English and the school didn't have any extra services for her to help learn at the time, making her early years in the New Jersey public school system extra challenging. The one subject that didn't need strong language skills though is mathematics, and Tuyet-Hanh gravitated towards math at an early age which helped inspire her path into STEM. Years after she had graduated from Stevens, she realized that she had a full-circle moment when she started working at Lockheed Martin, the same company that built the aircraft that first brought her and her family out to the United States in 1975 as a refugee. This interview was conducted by Stevens student, Matthew Halvorsen, '23.
Linda Vollkommer-Lynch was the first tenured female faculty and first female athletics coach at Stevens Institute of Technology (Stevens) in Hoboken, NJ. She was appointed the women's fencing coach at Stevens in 1974, starting off as part-time for the first two years. Fencing was the first women's sports team at Stevens. In this oral history clip, she reminisces about growing up in Hoboken, how she became interested in fencing, becoming the first tenured female faculty, participating in a faculty strike, and getting a chance to meet Frank Sinatra at the 1985 commencement.
In this delightful interview, Marty Valerio talks about his experience getting initiated into the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, some favorite memories of Stevens, and brief reminiscences about local spots in Hoboken that are no longer there (The Chatterbox and The Clam Broth House). In addition, Marty describes his senior trip out to the Midwest with his classmates and explains how the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June of 1968 postponed their commencement ceremony that year.
Marty’s four years at Stevens left an impact on him, and since graduating from Stevens he has been an active member of the Stevens Alumni Association (SAA). Marty has served as vice president, president, and later as a trustee of the SAA. While he was president of the SAA, he was also a member of the Stevens Board of Trustees. In 2018, he received a much-deserved Lifetime Service Award at the Stevens Awards Gala.
Robert (Bob) F. Wolf, was born and raised in Maywood, New Jersey, a borough 14 miles from Stevens. Bob has been connected to Stevens since he was a child. His father, George Wolf (Stevens class of 1925) would often take Bob to campus for alumni and sporting events. His father’s involvement and interest in Stevens Athletics would be passed down to his son Bob when it was his turn to attend Stevens. Unable to play sports himself (due to a knee injury), Bob instead became a manager for the Stevens’ basketball and lacrosse teams. In this oral history interview clip, Bob discusses his memories of Castle Stevens, funny stories of classmates and chemistry class, and the close bond he experienced with his classmates by attending the Stevens engineering summer camp. Bob was one of the last classes to experience the engineering summer camp, which ran from 1930-1955. The Stevens summer engineering camp was held in Johnsonburg, NJ. The camp was a six-week program, and all students were required to participate in the summer camp before entering their sophomore year. Although it was a summer educational program that complemented the Stevens curriculum, there were also opportunities for summer fun outdoors, and camaraderie with classmates. Stevens was mostly a commuter school back then, so having this summer camp was a great opportunity for students to bond with each other. According to Bob, the summer camp was his favorite experience from Stevens.
Please make sure to catch the end of the clip where Bob sings the “Stevens Fight Song,” a song that he still knows by heart!