Brookdale opened in September 1969 with 54 full-time faculty, 306 students with an average age under 21, an impressive roster of transfer and career programs, a non-credit “community services” division, and an intercollegiate sports program. For the first time at this brand-new school, Robert Costa entered college that came at just the right time. The draft for the Vietnam war was going on. It was a very turbulent time with Kent State, the war. Costa said, “My father was a WWII veteran, but he did not want me anywhere near the war. I was able to enter Brookdale before I became drafted.”
Costa attended Middletown High School, back when they were doing triple sessions. He was not the best student, but he also felt in high school they just placed you in classes without much care or thought. In the end, though, Costa convinced his parents to pay the fee and to let him take a world history ap exam. He scored very well on the exam, so well that he was accused of cheating. He did better than all the top students at the high school.This is when he learned the phrase that he would use from then and all his years of school and beyond. “Such pleasantries should go unnoticed” It validated my existence and the work ethic that I was willing to put in. And I did put it in,” he said.He received the NJ State Scholarship and that helped to pay his way through Brookdale. Costa said, “Education, I always thought, is what you put in is what you get out, and that is exactly what happened. Brookdale was developing credit with honors and credit with high honors. You do more, get credit with honors, do even more, and get credit with high honors. Back then, it was Barn A and Barn B. Some were taking non-credit classes, and many were there for the experience of a new school. It was enlightening.”Costa earned his associate degree in education at Brookdale. “I always wanted to become an educator. Our long-time neighbor was the science professor at Brookdale, and he pointed me in the right direction of what to do and what to expect.” Brookdale allowed me to continue. Its educational process stayed with me through Montclair State, sixteen years later while I was teaching and when I went through Monmouth University to get my master’s in education.After obtaining his master’s degree, he taught and wrote the curriculum for AP World History at Long Branch High School. He had the opportunity to go to China, Australia, and Paris. Costa said, “I gave my students everything that I could in 180 days if you could hit the world in 180 days.”He wrote two books, “An Arrogance of Ignorance: One Educator’s Journey from Childhood thru the Labyrinth of Life” by Oscar Beauregardi (his author’s name.) The book is about the nature and nurture of education. The second book he wrote is The Big Gabacci with illustrations by his daughter, Maryann Costa, who also graduated from Brookdale. This book is about a stuck-in-the-60’s retired teacher who encounters a new roaring twenties, when dealing with forces against him collide into fantasy and reality. His struggles to adapt has an unexpected result. Costa said, “Many people are stressed or mentally imbalanced are treated like a foreigner. A Frenchie foreigner. I go through these incidents that can be identified as a foreigner.”“Memories of “What if” never linger, thanks to Brookdale,” Costa said. “I would not have been able to do any of this if I did not have an education. Brookdale came to our community at the right time and gave me the opportunity that I needed. I appreciate Brookdale. Brookdale gave me my life.”
Photo: Eleven alumni from the first graduating class at the 40th reunion. Robert Costa is on the far right.