RAMSEY, N.J. — Thomas Eastwick, founder of Eastwick College in Ramsey, Hackensack and Nutley , usually is the man behind the curtain on campus.
But next month the Pearl River resident will emerge to accept two awards.
On Oct. 20, the Meadowlands Regional Chamber will honor the 64-year-old college president with a legacy award.
The next night, Eastwick will be feted at the fall gala of Project Literacy of Greater Bergen County as its 2016 honoree.
“How unusual is it to be honored two nights in a row?” asked Eastwick, who also founded the HoHoKus School of Trade and Technical Sciences in Paterson.
Eastwick’s schools, which he started building 32 years ago, today accommodate 2,000 students in 25 programs in a variety of fields .
Three-quarters enroll in health programs, including surgical technology, nursing, ultrasound, and occupational therapy, he said.
Other programs span the culinary arts, funeral services, business, plumbing, manufacturing, and welding.
Eastwick’s mission is an extension of what Project Literacy provides: free tutoring in reading and writing skills.
For many Eastwick students, he said, English is a second language.
“We offer free GED testing and training for our people,” Eastwick explained. “We recognize there is a large population that has not completed high school, so that is our commitment back to the community.”
Eastwick offers its students, some of whom have languished in $10- to $12-an-hour jobs, a chance for a better life.
At Eastwick, they can learn, sit for a licensing exam, and earn a credential — their ticket to a better life.
It’s a mission Eastwick sacrificed to achieve. After working for the National Education Corporation for several years, he chose to open his own school after his daughter, Angela, was born in 1985.
“I paid a lot of money and remortgaged my house three times to make it work the first five years,” Eastwick said.
But after he built it, they came, as the saying goes.
Enrollment has gone from 32 students to as high as 2,700 in the recession years.
The best part of his life now, Eastwick said, is that he’s able to give back through the Eastwick Foundation .
It raises money to provide book scholarships for Eastwick students, support community groups, and a nonprofit preschool in Jamaica founded by Angela Eastwick.
He’s hoping his 95-year-old mother will be in good enough health to be present for both award ceremonies.
Eastwick named the school’s Gallopo Hall of Sciences in Ramsey is named after his mother, whose maiden name was Gallopo.
Similarly, Cucci Hall is named after his maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Cucci.