Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Richard Cost

GSE alumnus Dr. Richard Cost has carried on the mission of the GSE throughout his career. Dr. Cost has a long history with Rutgers University, beginning with his maternal grandfather who was Secretary and Treasurer of the Board. Both of his parents attended Rutgers—his mother graduated from the New Jersey College for Women (now Douglass College), and his father from the Rutgers College of Engineering in 1929. His wife also graduated from Rutgers in the class of 1973 with her master’s degree and went on to be an assistant director of Financial Aid at the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus and enjoyed a long career as Director at several other colleges and as a consultant. Her father was also a Rutgers College alum.

During his final deployment in the Navy, Dr. Cost reached out to a mentor and friend, Dr. Earl Clifford, Vice President for Student Affairs at Rutgers, requesting help for pursuing a career in the field of higher education. With Dr. Clifford’s help, Dr. Cost started his first position in higher education at Rutgers-Newark in 1970, where he served as the Assistant Dean of Students and the Director of Financial Aid. Dr. Cost then worked at Rutgers-New Brunswick for a year before transitioning into a position with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey (AICUNJ). As executive associate at the AICUNJ, Dr. Cost completed policy work alongside Dr. Clifford that provided funding to private colleges across the state of New Jersey. It was during this time that Dr. Cost began his journey with the GSE to secure his Ed.D. in education. He graduated with his Ed.D. from the GSE in 1977. All roads led Dr. Cost back to Rutgers.

Dr. Cost’s commitment to providing high-quality experiences to students, faculty, and staff at every university he has worked for is obvious in the work that he has done. “It is important to think about the individual people that we interact with every day, and how those individual people make up a broader community.” His dedication and perseverance to make a positive impact on the people around him was never more evident than during his time as president of the University of Maine, Fort Kent (UMFK), when a student needed support the most. This student was in her senior year at the university and was set to graduate in the spring semester with a teaching degree after finishing her course requirements in December. However, two weeks before graduation, she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Her minister doubted she would live long enough to attend her graduation and called UMFK to ask that her diploma be mailed to the hospital at her home in Nova Scotia where she was being treated. Upon receipt of this information, Dr. Cost declined to mail her diploma and instead insisted on making the eleven-hour drive to Nova Scotia to deliver the diploma to her himself. Dr. Cost and his wife traveled to Sydney, Nova Scotia to conduct a small formal ceremony (robes and all) for her, her family, and friends in the hospital. “That was the most rewarding moment of my entire career… I am so happy I was able to honor this student for all of her accomplishments throughout her college career. She passed away during the following year. The opportunity to pursue a career as a teacher was taken from her, but she taught us all how to confront and accept our mortality. My wife and I felt blessed to have witnessed her grace and courage facing the end of her life at such a young age.”

Dr. Cost has had many amazing accomplishments in his life, all of which made him a huge asset to the field of higher education. Following achieving his B.A. at Syracuse University, Dr. Cost served two active duty tours in the Navy and 24 years as a reservist, retiring as a surface warfare  Captain. For as long as he could remember, Dr. Cost had a love for the sea and for boats. He would often spend his summers as a child in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. It was this love that influenced him to serve in the Navy. After many years working in higher education for both public and private universities, Dr. Cost retired and found a way to bring his love for the ocean and his passion for making a difference for students together. Dr. Cost currently serves as the Board Chair for the Sea Education Association whose mission is to “empower students with life-changing sea voyages of scientific and cultural discovery, academic rigor, and personal growth”. No matter what position he held or title he achieved, Dr. Cost has always strived to uphold an extremely high standard of success and dedication. His career has been devoted to Advancing Excellence and Equity in Education.