A Brief History of Brookdale’s Center for World War II Studies and Conflict Resolution
Founded September 2001 by Brookdale History Professor Paul Zigo in response to then college President Peter Burnham’s initiative, “establishing centers of excellence for the 21st century,” the very first program was presented by noted US military historian Dr. Russell F Weigley. Two especially noteworthy events over the years included a commemoration of Pearl Harbor on the 60th anniversary in 2001; speakers that day included survivor Ralph Jeffers, President NJ Pearl Harbor Survivors, while Marines from Red Bank recreated the flag raising on Iwo Jima. In February 2003, The Center presented “A Reunion of Guadalcanal Marines,” some of whom hadn’t seen each other in 60 years. In February 2009, a rare, multi-generational panel of veterans, including retired Brookdale faculty and students, ranging from World War II through Iraq/Afghanistan shared stories and wisdom for “Veterans Coming Home.” In 2012, NY Times Best Selling Author Kenneth Slawenski discussed his biography of J.D. Salinger and how Salinger’s experiences during World War II shaped his writing in a lecture entitled “Holden Caulfield: War Hero.” Zigo also facilitated the legendary Swing Era Dinner Dances at Fort Monmouth for many years featuring the Brookdale Big Band lead by Joe Accurso and vocalist Barbara Baron. The Center maintains an archive of thousands of hours of interviews with WW II veterans and civilians of the that time period. The Center has a large collection of World War II memorabilia and artifacts as well as a small library of research materials, including hundreds of World War II era newspapers, all located within the Bankier library at Brookdale. Services offered to the community throughout the years also included researching military records of deceased veterans for family members and visiting wounded veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center. Professor Zigo served as Director until 2014. Now retired, Zigo’s hope for the future of the center is to “continue presenting programs of historical significance as well as those exploring the lasting impacts of World War II.” Current Director, Brookdale English Professor Marc David Bonagura promises to explore more deeply the “conflict resolution” aspects regarding future programming.