In Memoriam: Dr. Frank M. Chambers
The College mourns the passing of Frank M. Chambers, the founding president of MCC, who passed away December 23. He had just turned 94.
“As the founding father of one of the first community colleges in New Jersey, Frank Chambers is a member of a small group of dedicated people whose life and work transformed the lives of thousand of students,” said MCC President Joann La Perla-Morales. Dr. Chambers served the College from 1965 to 1975 and was also an administrator at colleges in Ohio and New York. He also served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War.
Born in Yonkers, NY in 1919 to Frank and Helen Chambers, he went on after high school to St. Lawrence University. While at St. Lawrence he met his future wife, Ruth Slater of Norwich, NY.
Dr. Chambers enlisted in the Navy at the outbreak of WWII, and he and Ruth were soon married before he shipped out to the South Pacific to serve on the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill. Returning from the war, Dr. Chambers continued his education at Cornell University and subsequently was called up again during the Korean War and assigned to Washington, DC, working in Naval Intelligence. Returning again to civilian life, Dr. Chambers went on to the University of Florida where he received his doctorate in Education.
At the completion of his education, Frank, Ruth, and their three children took a camping trip around the US before settling down at Muskingum College where Dr. Chambers was appointed Dean of Men. After three years at Muskingum, Dr. Chambers moved on to Broome Technical Community College in Binghamton, NY as Director of Admissions. Living in Greene, NY he became involved with young people as a Boy Scout leader and as a youth group leader at the Zion Episcopal Church.
With his enthusiasm for the community college concept, Dr. Chambers was invited to apply to the new Middlesex County College in New Jersey for the first president’s position. As the founding president, he developed a dynamic educational facility with a wide range of curriculum and high academic standards that continues to this day serving the surrounding community. After 10 years in this position he retired to the family lake house in McDonough, NY. There he pursued his avid interest in tennis by leading a community effort to build new tennis courts where he played often and taught local youth the game.
Beyond tennis, Dr. Chambers, along with his wife Ruth, traveled the world extensively, meeting interesting people and being immersed in many other cultures. Summers brought frequent visits of grandchildren who enjoyed sharing their grandparents’ love of nature in and around the lake. Grandpa Frank was always ready to share the fun swimming, boating, fishing or just being a loving companion. He often related Ruth’s advice to him when he retired: “You can hunt, you can fish, and you can grow a garden. What more do you want?”
After Ruth’s death in 1992, Dr. Chambers met and married Mary Jane Bishop of Owego, NY. They settled in Green Valley, AZ, shared a common interest playing tennis at every opportunity, and traveled the world for several years. Mary Jane died in 2009. Dr. Chambers moved to La Posada retirement community in Green Valley where he remained active for several more years, not putting his tennis racquet down until in his nineties.
Dr. Chambers is survived by his son, Frank (Dolly) Chambers of Albuquerque, NM, twin daughters Patricia (David) Burpee of Green Valley, AZ and Roberta (John) Lamb of Lafayette, NY. He also leaves five grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and a dear friend Carole Green of Green Valley. Dr. Chambers was a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Green Valley. He will be missed for his interest in the arts and theater, his humor and his love of humanity, friends and family.