EAST ORANGE / KENILWORTH, NJ — With his 100th birthday approaching on Oct. 22, author Jacob Schaad Jr. recently released his book “Swedes and Deeds: The Ups and Downs of Upsala College,” holding a presentation and book signing at the Kenilworth Senior Citizens Center on June 21. In his book and conversations, Schaad details the history of Upsala College and highlights the school’s significance to Kenilworth and East Orange.
In 1893, Swedish Lutherans founded Upsala College in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1898, Upsala moved to the New Jersey municipality of New Orange — much of which later became Kenilworth. The college first operated out of an old farmhouse near the northeastern corner of the Boulevard and North 20th Street. In 1899, the school moved to a 14-acre campus on a hill at the top of North 21st Street, where it remained until 1924, when it moved to East Orange, eventually closing in 1995.
“Kenilworth residents feel that Upsala was a very important part of local history, having been located in the community in 1898 and remaining until 1924, (when it) moved to East Orange to a much larger campus,” Kenilworth historian Walter Boright said July 8. “History tells that the college itself was very influential in the religious development of the community. It had significant political impact, and, culturally, it was the center of a lot of activities at the time. The important part of the college was that when the main developers were developing the community, they had a vision that it would be a place where workers could have affordable housing, find a job in a new factory, and that the college would attract another level of people from a different socioeconomic stratum, which would enhance the diversity of the community.
“When the Kenilworth campus had 14 acres of land and the college was growing and needed greater space, 35 acres became available in East Orange, so the college moved there and began classes there in the fall of 1924,” he continued. “It continued to function there until the end of the 1994-1995 school term and finished its life in East Orange. It became a highly regarded college that attracted many minority students who could not afford full tuition (elsewhere).”
Schaad’s deep interest in Upsala College and its 102-year history is largely due to the fact that he served for 12 years as the school’s publicist. Schaad said in an interview how great it feels to be an author still at age 99, having previously authored “No Time To Retire,” a book about the history of North Wildwood, and a book about the 300th anniversary of the Cold Spring Presbyterian Church. He still loves holding book presentations and meeting with local readers.
“The presentation was very successful. Not only from the sale of books, but I got to meet some people who were students of Upsala when I worked there as their publicist, including the dean of Upsala College. So, it worked out well,” Schaad said July 9. “In writing my book, I spoke to quite a few people — former students — who spoke so highly of their education. There was some gratification of writing a book about a college that was once ranked the third-best college in the state of New Jersey.
“This is not the first book I’ve written,” he continued. “It feels nice because you get to meet interesting people. I am now in the middle of writing a book paying tribute to all the doctors, nurses and others in the medical profession who helped me get to almost my 100th birthday.”
Kenilworth Historical Society President Shirley Boyden Maxwell praised Schaad for his books and his dedication to history.
“It was such a pleasure to meet Mr. Schaad,” Maxwell said July 9. “I greatly admire him, and I appreciate that he cares so much about Upsala College that he not only wrote a book about it but came to Kenilworth to personally share his knowledge and recollections of the college that has such a revered place in our local history.
“Mr. Schaad is indeed an inspiration, having accomplished so much in his lifetime, including serving our country in World War II, and now looking forward to authoring additional books even as he nears 100 years of age.”