ROSA LEE EICKHOFF Approached the role of first lady of the college with the same mindset she applied to her roles as wife, mother, teacher, and student adviser: Lead by example. From her Missouri farmer parents she inherited an abiding faith in the power of education and a belief system that valued honesty, trustworthiness, and service to others.
She lived those values every day.
As first lady from 1980–1998, Rosa Lee was a constant presence at college cultural and sporting events. Gracious and gregarious, she was equally comfortable chatting at halftime with Lions fans as she was mingling at intermission with campus arts patrons. Several nights a week, she welcomed students, faculty, and staff to the president’s house for dinner, and through the years hosted and cooked for thousands of people. She especially treasured the
opportunity to get to know the students through those informal affairs. Rosa Lee loved TCNJ students and lit up whenever she was around them.
A former kindergarten teacher who held a master’s degree in education, she found fulfillment in serving students. She worked full time for 25 years as a student adviser at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey.
Above all, Rosa Lee loved her family: her husband of 59 years Harold W. Eickhoff, former president of the college; daughter Sharon Italiano and her husband, Joseph; daughter Janet Eickhoff; and grandchildren Angelica, Parrie, and Dominique Italiano.
During her husband’s tenure as president, the college rose to prominence as one of the top primarily undergraduate institutions in the country. President Eickhoff says his wife was his confidante and sounding board throughout those years, and that her energy, charm, and optimism were central to the college’s success.
If there was one lesson that Rosa Lee tried to impart on the thousands of TCNJ students she interacted with, it was this: That they had an obligation to leave the college a better place than it was when they came here. Exactly what you would expect from someone who led by example.