From the Port Authority to Adelphi, Gene Steger '76 took advantage of University College's benefits, advancing through the ranks as an electrical engineer.
by Valerie Mikell“After all Adelphi has done to help me achieve more in my life, I felt compelled to do my part to help future generations get the same life changing opportunities I did.”—Gene Steger ’76
When Tenacity Meets Ability
Gene Steger ’76 still has mementos from Adelphi, nearly 40 years later. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Mr. Steger began working for the Port Authority at JFK International Airport in 1949—in his late teens—as an electrical apprentice. He was drafted into the Army in 1951, and after serving two years, he returned and completed the Port Authority’s electrical training program in 1962.
Simultaneously, Mr. Steger attended evening classes at New York Community College and earned his associate of science degree. But when he sought out supervisory positions within the Port Authority, and inquired about its requirements, the personnel department told him that they required a college degree. “In those days, if you wanted to advance to the next level you had to take a test or have a degree,” Mr. Steger said.
It just so happened that the Port Authority was updating the educational opportunities available to employees, and began a partnership and career development program with Adelphi’s ABLE program (now University College). Mr. Steger received the employee handout detailing this new opportunity to earn college credits at Adelphi through on-site Port Authority courses, and he quickly signed up.
“Adelphi accepted quite a number of my previous credits—about 30—so that I could get into the program, and it helped me out quite a bit,” he said.
Mr. Steger began the supervisory development program in 1975 at his worksite, JFK. Some of the courses he remembers were offered were Leadership Communications, Management Orientation and more. “The classes were taught on site to employees at all three Port Authority locations—JFK Airport, LaGuardia Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC,” he recalled. “It was very convenient that training was conducted at the facility and was very accommodating of employee work schedules.” Classes were offered four hours a day, twice a week from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from at 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. An added benefit was that if employees weren’t able to attend the morning classes, the same course work was repeated in the evening class. And for employees who earned a passing grade, the Port Authority either paid or reimbursed them for the courses. It was a win-win situation.
Through the ABLE program, Mr. Steger eventually graduated from Adelphi, and moved into a supervisory position. “There were about 20 Port Authority employees, including myself, in Adelphi’s graduating class,” he recalled. And he advanced throughout his career with the Port Authority, eventually retiring after 42 years as an Engineer IV—an electrical engineer for the resident engineering office.
Mr. Steger has kept nearly every Adelphi correspondence as a memento—from his 1975 acceptance letter into the program to the Adelphi Bulletin, volume 20, number 1 from 1973. The ABLE program made such a significant impact on his life that he has included the University in his estate plans. “I was invited to campus a couple of years ago and saw how the University was progressing. I had a lovely experience,” Mr. Steger said. “After all Adelphi has done to help me achieve more in my life, I felt compelled to do my part to help future generations get the same life changing opportunities I did.”
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