Mayor earns college degree from Pillar College

Photo by Chris Sykes
Mayor Tony Vauss stands with his wife, Mia Vauss, on Saturday, May 20, after he earned his bachelor’s degree in organization leadership by graduating from Pillar College at the school’s commencement ceremony in the Robert Treat Hotel in downtown Newark.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss graduated from Pillar College on Saturday May 20, during the Newark-based school’s commencement ceremony in the Robert Treat Hotel, the proud new owner of a bachelor’s degree in business management and organization leadership that he said he plans to immediately put to good use on behalf of his constituents and fellow Team Irvington Strong members.

“My next stop is going to Disney World,” joked Vauss on Saturday, May 20. “My degree is directly related to what I do as mayor, on behalf of my constituents. It’s just another chapter of us continuing to move forward.”

Vauss’ wife, Mia, and his son were both on hand to watch him receive the college degree he worked hard to earn, as were many of his fellow Team Irvington Strong members. He said many elected officials came out to wish him well that day, including Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson, West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi and East Orange 3rd Ward Councilman, City Council Chairman and 2017 mayoral candidate Ted Green, who also works as Irvington’s Building Department director.

“It’s motivation and inspiration all the way around,” said Municipal Council Vice President Renee Burgess on Saturday, May 20. “I am so proud of Mayor Tony Vauss. I know personally that he worked so hard to obtain this. Not only that, he’s inspired me to take classes myself. But as I said before, it’s an inspiration and it’s an honor to know Tony and I wish him all the best.”

At large Councilwoman October Hudley earned her doctoral degree from New Jersey City University last year and was at the event to share in savoring Vauss’ graduation. She also recently retired from working as the library media specialist at Grove Street School in the Irvington public school system and her daughter recently graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering and is heading off to El Segundo, Calif., to participate in an aerospace internship, so education has played a very important role in both her public and private life.

“I am extremely excited that the mayor continued his education and he is going to receive his bachelor’s degree and he knows the importance of education,” said Hudley on Friday, May 12, at the Irvington Senior Citizens Community Center Mother’s Day Tea. “Not only did he strive to reach his bachelor’s degree; he also reached out to the community, so that they could receive theirs also, and that was really big of him to do that.

“Education is the foundation of knowledge of how you can acquire what goes on a daily basis. The trends of education and even the trends of society are constantly on rotation and movement, so it’s very important that you receive your education; so that way, you can stay abreast of the current events that’s going on and policies. Education is extremely important, especially since we’re in a technological age, where things are moving at a fast, fast pace.”

At large Councilwoman Charnette Frederic also works full-time as a corporate scientist; she too understands the value of higher education.

“Mayor Vauss is doing an incredible job in Irvington,” said Frederic on Tuesday, May 16, prior to Vauss’ graduation. “It takes commitment and hard work to get the (bachelor’s degree). I want to congratulate him on this accomplishment.”

On Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, Vauss announced the township of Irvington was partnering with Pillar College and its Life Enhancement Accelerated Degree Program to offer adult accelerated degree programs to any resident or employee who wanted to enroll. At the time, he said the best thing about the school and the partnership with the town was that professors from Pillar College would come to town to hold classes inside the Municipal Building, in order to make the higher education-process as convenient and user-friendly as possible.

And almost a year later Vauss has graduated his college degree.

Acknowledging the milestone in the mayor’s life, Essex County Surrogate Judge Ted Stephens said, “I’m just wishing congratulations to my good friend, my buddy, Mayor Tony Vauss doing a fantastic job setting the example for these young folks that it’s never too late to get that education. I’ve got several degrees. It’s been a long haul. My experience is that, when you get that first taste of success, that first degree, you have an urge to continue that, so I would not doubt that Mayor Vauss is going to get an advanced degree as well.

“I’m a firm believer that you either grow or you die on the vine and education is an extremely important part of continued growth. We’re never too old to learn. Formally, in the classroom is one way, in addition to life experience, that you get, just by getting this gray hair that we got here.”

Stephens said, “I can’t imagine a day better than graduation day. It’s the end of a long journey and to celebrate with people who you’ve gone to school with in this kind of festive atmosphere, that helps make it all worthwhile.”

Vauss said he agreed with Stephens.

“I’m looking forward to going to get the master’s degree soon, so we’re going to be working and continue to work to build our community and provide the type of education that our people need in this day and age, so we’re going to continue to do that,” Vauss said Saturday, May 20. “This was absolutely part of the plan. Once I took advantage of Pillar College, I thought that it would be something that my community could use as well, so I was determined to bring them to offer these educational opportunities to all the residents of Irvington. It’s been a great school, a great experience and I’m just looking forward to what’s next.”

Vauss congratulated “all my fellow graduates of 2017 and we look forward to all working together to build our community as well as Pillar College. Our councilwoman at large, Renee Burgess, also attends Pillar College. She should be up for graduation next year and it’s about sharing all the knowledge, all the education that we can with one another and helping to build one another and I think this is a good first start for all the members on the council, our Board of Education members, as well as surrounding communities.”

Vauss said he hopes his own graduation will serve as an inspiration to his Team Irvington Strong members and others that “it’s never too late” to earn a degree.

“It serves another chapter of what we can do this to put forward to make our communities better,” said Vauss. “One of the things I always want to do is lead by example and this is an example of anyone can go back to school, get their education, get their degree and, if you can’t, if you don’t have the resources, we can bring the college to you. We’re looking forward to pushing this program in 2017 and beyond.”

Another great feature about Pillar College, Vauss said, is its affordability.

“I believe it’s very affordable,” said Vauss. “A lot of things that you would spend your money on like traveling, parking and things of that nature and, if you’re an Irvington resident, we want to bring it to you. So we want to make it as convenient and as cost-saving as possible for the residents of Irvington.”

For more information about Pillar College and L.E.A.D. program and the institution’s partnership with the township of Irvington, visit or call 973-803-5000, ext. 1032.