Courtesy of RCGC College Relations, Communications & Marketing
DEPTFORD TWP. — Few professionals are aware of just how many lives they touch during the tenure of their career until reaching retirement.
For Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) Professor Charles “Chuck” Harkins, it’s safe to say his number ranges in the few thousands, having taught more than 10,000 aspiring teachers in the arena of higher education. This fall marks the start of his 51st year of service.
“As soon as I finished my first student-teaching practicum I knew that this is what I was destined to do,” said Harkins. “Students bring a lot of talent into the classroom and onto the field. It’s a teacher’s responsibility to develop that talent.”
An alumnus of Riverside High School, he was the recipient of the Future Teachers of America Award and promoted with honors. He enrolled at Glassboro State College in fall 1960 as a history major with an English minor.
As an undergraduate, Harkins pursued multiple student-teaching placements. He led classes in composition and journalism at Williamstown High School and world history at Audubon High School, where he also had the opportunity to coach junior-varsity football. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1964 as well as the much-coveted Medallion Award for Excellence in Journalism.
“The real pleasure of my job is finding value in each student’s work, to build upon it, so that they can learn from it,” said Harkins. “It’s about teaching others how to do it better than they’ve ever done it before, or better than they ever thought they could.”
Harkins joined the Gloucester County College (now Rowan College) staff circa 1970 as an English instructor after six years in the classroom at his alma mater and obtained his master’s degree in Informational Services in 1972.
Then-President William Apetz asked him to formalize the new Informational Services department. Four years later, the then-dean of academic services, Dr. Joseph Summers, requested that Harkins spearhead the Developmental Studies program with the help of committee members Barbara Brown, Robert Hart, Robert Mossman and Lynn Smith in setting forth basic-skills curriculum to remediate students. In 1981, he attended Appalachia State University to become certified in Developmental Studies — at the time only the second educator in New Jersey to receive the certification.
At the dawn of the new millennium, President Gail Mellow challenged faculty to contrive new, creative ways to drum up enrollment and increase student retention. Drawing on years of expertise, Harkins, alongside esteemed colleagues John Henzy, Chrystal Bacon, George Downing, Mike Linder and Linda DeFelice, proposed Teachers 2000, a learning community specifically for future educators.
Harkins has held various positions within the College’s departments, including assistant to the president, director of public relations, dean of liberal arts, mathematics and science and head cross country coach. As the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country coach for 13 years, Harkins captured 27 regional championships with fellow coaches, the late Charles Way and Jamaican Olympian Derick Adamson. He has also won numerous accolades over the years, ranging from the prestigious Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, to several proclamations from the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Furthermore, a number of current RCGC employees are prior students of his: Assistant Professor Leo Chow, eLearning Coordinator David Coates and Library Technician Mary Hurlburt.
To this day he still prefers the classroom — on the frontline with students.
“I was part of the first basic-skills group, I had Harkins for English,” said Coates. “He was awesome. It was his patience that made me excited about learning again. It was the first time I thought ‘Hey, I can do this. I can get a college degree.’”