The Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of three TCNJ graduates at the Leadership Convocation Awards, set to take place on May 1 as part of the Reunion Weekend festivities.
Nicholas Gusz ’42 will receive the Distinguished Service Award. First given in 1998, this award recognizes an individual who has provided exceptional service to the College, his or her class, the Alumni Association, and/or the College’s students. Nicholas has gone above and beyond in every sense of the phrase.
After graduating in 1942 as one of the College’s most outstanding athletes—winning 11 varsity letters for soccer, football, basketball, and track—he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and instructed enlistees in physical and flight training throughout the Second World War. The rest of his story is a series of long-term commitments and successes.
After studying school administration and law at Temple and Rutgers, Nicholas went on to serve for three decades as director of athletics for The Lawrenceville School and for two decades in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring in 1968 with the rank of major. All the while, Nicholas expanded his relationship with his alma mater and his community.
In 1983, the College named him a charter inductee to the Athletic Hall of Fame, and he has served as master of ceremonies for nearly every Hall of Fame induction ceremony. When the College initiated its class agents program to expand alumni participation, Nicholas volunteered to represent his and five additional graduating classes. In his directorial positions, he has opened career paths for a number of TCNJ undergraduates and helped to facilitate the activities of several college sports teams.
Nicholas is a founding member of the Trenton Select Committee, a local civic organization, and served for 20 years on the Burlington City Planning and Zoning Board. He has also served a 25-year term with the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association and an extensive, 52-year term as president and treasurer of the New Jersey Independent Schools Athletic Association.
Nicholas continues to attend alumni functions, arts productions, and athletic events at TCNJ. He lives in Burlington with his wife Mary Ellen, who is also a member of the Class of 1942.
MacDella “Mackie” Cooper ’01, a fashion model turned philanthropist, will receive the Humanitarian Award, which recognizes and alumnus or alumna who has shown exceptional public-spiritedness or concern for human welfare through philanthropic activities. MacDella is the founding president of the Board of Directors of the MacDella Cooper Foundation (MCF) Inc., a not-for-profit charity that provides educational opportunities and basic necessities for abandoned children in her native Liberia.
In 1993, MacDella escaped the terror of the Liberian civil war and settled in the United States, where she studied communications at TCNJ on a full academic scholarship. She recounted her experiences in a previous edition of TCNJ Magazine. Click here to read the article.
After graduation, MacDella explored a career in fashion, serving as marketing and events coordinator for Jones Apparel Group, where she helped develop comprehensive marketing strategies for Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, Jones New York, and several other fashion brands including Eredi Pisano and Duca Sartoria. She also directed the marketing and event planning initiatives for the New York Independent Film and Music Festival.
In 2004, she founded MCF and began by collecting and shipping supplies to Liberia. The effort grew to incorporate the renovation of Liberian orphanages, annual Christmas parties for Liberian orphans, and soon, the MCF Academy—a tuition-free school set to open its doors to 200 students in Fall 2010.
In addition to her involvement with MCF, MacDella sits on the directorial boards of several charities and private foundations, including the Segal Family Foundation and the Red Cross Tiffany Circle. She lives in Manhattan.
Conferred continuously since 1940, the Alumni Citation Award is the premier award given by TCNJ’s Alumni Association. This year’s recipient is Keith C. Figgs ’74, who was selected based on his exceptional success in his professional life and his continued association and support of his alma mater.
Keith, who received his BS and MEd in elementary education from the College, volunteered at the annual Children’s Literature and Storytelling Conference for 18 years after graduation. Even after taking his 16-year-long position as assistant superintendent for administration for Vineland Public Schools, Keith continued to make regular contributions to TCNJ’s Annual Fund and served as a Class Agent, working to reconnect the Class of 1974 and encourage alumni participation in the College community.
Keith received a number of honors as a student of the College, including Cum Laude recognition and membership in Kappa Delta Pi, the National Honor Society in Education. He retained this excellence throughout his post-master’s career, which traversed the realms of the elementary school classroom, adult education programs, and the administrative offices of vice-principal, principal, and assistant superintendent—a tenure during which he served as interim superintendent three times.
In 1993, Keith earned his EdD in educational leadership from the Teachers College of Columbia University. In 2001, he received the NAACP’s W.E.B. DuBois Educational Excellence Award. He went on to earn several other awards, including Cumberland County’s Administrator of the Year honor in 2007.
In the summer of 2007, Keith received an invitation to tour his first campus and meet the Dean for the School of Education and the College president. “This visit validated my
continued pride in my alma mater!” he affirmed.
Keith resides in Vineland and continues to serve as secretary of the Cumberland County College Board of Trustees.