“My associate degree from Brookdale Community College got me very far, and I am thankful for what it’s done for me and my family,” said Brookdale alumnus Edward Van Wicklen. He recently retired after a long and successful career as mechanical engineer. “I will be 71 in January, but I still remember those days at Brookdale where I worked very hard to get my degree while working full time and with two children.”
Before coming to Brookdale, Van Wicklen had a job as a forklift operator, working double shifts of 16 hours a day, and was frustrated with his job. “My wife saw my frustration and knew I wanted more than to be a forklift operator the rest of my life,” he explained. After researching local colleges, Van Wicklen visited the Lincroft campus of Brookdale with his wife. “After just one visit, I was hooked on the atmosphere and the wonderful feeling of going back to school,” he said. After one of his long 16-hour shifts, Van Wicklen’s wife explained she had signed him up as a Mechanical/Engineering Drafting major at Brookdale. “And so began my long college days,” he said.
“I had to carefully schedule the dates and times of my classes so that I could work full time, rotating shifts, going to college, and at that time we had our first child,” Van Wicklen explained. Like many returning college students, Van Wicklen had the additional responsibilities of work and parenthood to negotiate while going to school. “Sixteen-hour days on a propane forklift was not easy, and when I would wake up, I had to put as much time into my homework as possible,” he remembered.
While still working on his degree at Brookdale, Van Wicklen was hired as a drafting engineer and was quickly promoted to engineering manager. At the same time, he started a part time job as a piping engineer with the Exxon Refinery in Lindon, NJ. “I finished my degree while doing all of this,” he said.
With a demanding work and family schedule, Van Wicklen continued to work towards his degree and truly enjoyed his classes. “The course that really hit home was my first drafting/engineering course, and that teacher was terrific,” he said. Van Wicklen persevered and graduated with his associate degree in 1977. “It was very difficult, but I guess I loved it as I aced college with high honors,” he said of his time at Brookdale.
After graduating, Van Wicklen started working at Harley Davidson Motorcycles in York, PA as an engineering draftsman. “It was a wonderful job where I learned far more than I could imagine. What could be more fun than working to create a Harley Davidson Motorcycle?” He worked there for six years before he left to become an engineering manager for Stanely Works, a company that manufactures tools and household products. “I stayed there for 16 years until they closed its doors,” said Van Wicklen. He then worked for AMP Inc., another manufacturing company, where the knowledge he gained at Brookdale solved a major issue for the company. “Our drawings were coming from Denmark, and what they didn’t know was that layouts from overseas, at least back then, were backwards compared to how we draft in the USA,” he explained. “At first my manger and his manager thought I was crazy, so we called Denmark and confirmed I was correct.” After a few years, Van Wicklen became the engineering manager for the engineered wood division of The Wolf Organization. He retired in 2008.
“As you can see, it was a long and winding road for me, but worth while for myself and my family which now includes two children and four grandchildren,” said Van Wicklen. “And if it wasn’t for Brookdale college and my wife pushing me, I might still be driving a forklift.”
It’s never too late to start your educational journey at Brookdale. For information about how to get started, please visit brookdalecc.edu/admissions.