First Gen

Message from the President

First Generation Day

Dr. Eugene J. Cornacchia, President

Since its founding in 1872, Saint Peter’s University has been devoted to providing first-generation students with a high quality, values-oriented education in the Jesuit tradition. At its inception, Saint Peter’s embraced its location in a growing industrial city and the richness of the area’s cultural diversity. Though the immigrants of the mid-nineteenth century were largely of European background, today we celebrate a much more diverse student population that hails from around the world. Over the last nearly one hundred and fifty years, we have learned how best to serve the needs of first-generation students and our faculty and staff are dedicated to ensuring the personal growth and success of our first gen students. Many of our employees are first generation themselves and their own experience enhances their knowledge of the unique needs of first-generation students and their ability to address their needs.

In many ways, the history and experience of Saint Peter’s mirrors my own personal experience. My father emigrated from Italy when he was nine. Though a very good student in high school, a College education was not feasible since he had to go to work to help support his family. But he had a gift—a facility for math and accounting and a willingness to work very hard. Had it not been for his determination to give his children a better life, I would not have had the opportunity to attend college. My mother was the daughter of Italian immigrants who offered her the opportunity to go to College but she never did out of fear. Back in 1937 it was largely true that, in her words, “women don’t go to College.” But she too was determined that her children would have a College education.

Though the world has certainly changed and evolved in the century and a half since our founding, one thing remains the same: the critical importance of a college education to providing social mobility for first generation students. Though we recognize the achievements of first-gen college students during the week of November 8, we should celebrate their determination, their extraordinary talents, gifts and dedication to learning and their contributions to our nation each and every day!