Essex County College 55th Anniversary Scholarship Gala

April 11, 2024


Vivian Carter has not slowed down since graduating with an Associate degree in Elementary Education from Essex County College in 1973. The energetic retired teacher is passionate about her commitment to education, and her love of community and the City of Newark that nurtured her.

“Volunteering and giving back to the community is a part of me. I was taught at an early age the importance of giving to others. I remember when I was in the eighth grade I volunteered at a nursing home on 10th Street” in Newark, and I haven’t stopped,” Vivian stated. “It’s in my blood.”

Vivian proudly says that enrolling at Essex County College, after starting out at an out-of-state school, put her on the path to a long and rewarding teaching career in the Newark Public Schools. She was able to start initially working as a teacher assistant in Newark with the credits she had already earned. But she needed a degree to become a teacher.

“I was 24 when I started at Essex. Here I was, an adult learner and a little apprehensive. But the College was like a big family and the professors heightened my exuberance for learning. ECC rekindled my love for learning and teaching. I’m proud to say I graduated from ECC with Honors,” Vivian stated.

Vivian then went on to Rutgers University-Newark where she majored in Education and Urban Planning. “I wanted to be a city planner and teacher,” she recalled. But fulltime teaching won out.

That began a long and rewarding teaching career in which Vivian taught at a number of Newark schools. She impressed upon her students the importance of giving back to their community. Those lessons have not gone unnoticed by her pupils. “One of my former students was awarded a volunteer medal from Seton Hall University. She mentioned me in her speech. I just felt so truly blessed.”

Since retiring from teaching in 2009, Vivian dedicates herself to volunteering practically every day.  Although she tries to limit her volunteer hours on Mondays, whenever possible.

The Rev. Ronald Slaughter, pastor at Newark’s St. James AME Church, can count on her for any church program and activity. “I’m a lifelong member of St. James, so I’m there for anything,” Vivian said.

Vivian frequently stops by her ECC alma mater to help with voter registration through her Delta Sigma Theta (North Jersey Alumni Chapter) where she serves on the Social Action and Scholarship committees.

Her affiliations range from membership on the Arts (Newark) High School Alumni Association to numerous college and teacher organizations. She is also Education Chair for the Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association, Newark Senior Services, Greenlight Greater Newark, Newark Museum, Newark Library and co-chairs the Friends of Newark Symphony Hall with Essex County College Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Alfred Bundy. “What the Apollo Theater means to Harlem, Newark Symphony Hall means to Newark,” she stated.

“I can’t imagine my life without volunteering. Clara Dasher (who was a longtime Chair of ECC’s Board of Trustees) was an elementary school teacher, an excellent role model for education and one of my inspirations,” noted Vivian. “It’s my spiritual calling and I can say that I’m fulfilled.”




Renee C. Burgess, (Essex County College Class of 1999) is passionate about public service. She is a former member of the Board of Education and Township Council in her hometown of Irvington. She now holds the position of New Jersey State Senator for the 28th Legislative District.

“My time at Essex County College (earning an Associate degree in Business Administration) prepared me for the financial career I have had. Graduating from ECC was one of my life’s biggest milestone,” she stated.

From ECC, Senator Burgess went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Pillar College and a Master’s in Public Affairs and Administration from Metropolitan College of New York. She has worked for Merck Pharmaceutical and CIT Financial.

She was selected to fill the unexpired 28th District seat of Ronald L. Rice, himself an ECC alumnus, last September. Senator Burgess won the special election last November for the term that runs through 2023. Senator Rice passed away on March 15, 2023.  The district encompasses all or parts of Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Newark, and Nutley.

“My goal, as a whole, is to create unity in our melting pot of cultures, especially in my Legislative District. It’s important to focus on women’s rights, help for our senior citizens, provide health education for all ages, and prevent gun violence. I want to be in a position where I can better serve our residents.” Her state committee assignments largely align with her goals.

Senator Burgess served from 2002 to 2014 on the Irvington Board of Education, including a time as President. She is most proud of spearheading an initiative for students in all grades to wear school uniforms.

While on the Township Council, she worked to maintain vital services and public safety, along with developing senior citizen programs. She also provided needed support for the new football field at Irvington High School.

To today’s students, Senator Burgess said, “Stay motivated and focus on education. It’s important to give back to the community and never forget from where you came.”





Your Host

Dr. Augustine A. Boakye
Essex County College

Ms. Marion A. Bolden
Essex County College Board of Trustees

Dr. Leila Sadeghi
Essex County College Foundation