Helping Others Achieve

1975 alumna established endowed scholarship to support the future generation of students 

By Susan Field 

Helping Others Achieve 1975 alumna established endowed scholarship to support the future generation of students By Susan Field

Judy Oelschlager Formalarie learned many lessons at ESU: how to work hard to achieve goals, how to balance work and school, and how to be flexible and open to opportunities. But the lesson that stands out the most is to help others achieve.

In establishing the Judith L. Formalarie ’75 Endowed Scholarship fund, by way of a beneficiary designation to the ESU Foundation, upon her death, Formalarie will leave a legacy by helping future students pay for college.

“It’s paying it forward. College is so much more expensive now. I want to help somebody else reach their goals and their dreams and be successful in life,” said Formalarie, who is the first college graduate in her family.

After a recent divorce, when Formalarie was revising the beneficiaries on her investment portfolio, it was an easy choice to leave money to not only her family and church, but also to the ESU Foundation.

“When I thought about what had influenced me and helped me directly in my life, it was ESU. I wouldn’t have had any of my jobs without my ESU degree,” Formalarie said.  “College is also not as affordable now as it was for me then. I graduated without too much debt by working two jobs, but even then, I barely squeaked by. I am so thankful for the scholarships I received. Now it’s my turn to give back.”

Over the years, Formalarie has regularly supported the ESU Foundation and to other scholarships, including the ESU 70’s Socialites Annual Scholarship and this year, to the new Christine Rohr Thompson ’73 Memorial Annual Scholarship.  

“Think about how much money you spend on other things. Some of that stuff will be gone the minute you leave. If you give money back to the university, you can have a lasting effect on someone's life,” Formalarie said. “If every graduate gave even $25, imagine how much scholarship money there would be!”

Formalarie, originally from the small town of Red Hill, located in between Pottstown and Quakertown, was the second oldest of six children in her family.  

When it came time to look for colleges, ESU checked all the boxes for her: it was an affordable school, relatively close to home, and had a well-known health and physical education program. 

Formalarie was interested in majoring in health because her mother was a nurse, and she was inspired to become a teacher and coach because of her high school physical education teacher.

“I had an older neighbor who went to ESU, who brought me up to Homecoming and showed me around. I liked the campus and being up in the mountains. I thought, ‘this could be the school for me,’ she said.

She remembers moving into Hemlock Hall and meeting her best friend, Patricia “Trissie” Bond Pasch ’75, an Elementary and Special Education major, who lived in the room next to her. After their sophomore year, Formalarie moved into an off-campus apartment with five classmates, including Trissie.

“Living with a group of girls, we always helped each other out,” Formalarie said. “We may have had different lifestyles and attitudes, but we were all in it together, many of us sharing the same majors. We were all middle-class kids trying to make it. We really learned to work together and help each other achieve.”

Formalarie was busy on campus and off—balancing coursework and activities, such as cheerleading and Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority.

Her parents did not have the means to pay her college tuition, so Formalarie paid her own way by working two jobs. She had a work-study position with the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and worked as a waitress at the former Beaver House restaurant in Stroudsburg.

“I loved my time at ESU. It was the best four years of my life. I had fun, but I was working hard in school, and I had to work hard to pay the bills,” Formalarie said. 

Her courses were rigorous and full of life lessons. She recalls a strict English composition professor, who taught her the importance of details and accuracy. 

“I had a manual Olivetti typewriter that I used to type my papers. There was no spell check back then. I remember I spelled the word ‘occasion’ wrong on an assignment, and it affected my grade. I learned that the little things matter, and you have to get details right. They make a big difference,” she said.

As a Physical Education major, Formalarie had to take many activity and sport classes, including soccer and volleyball. She recalls traveling to Stony Acres, a wildlife sanctuary in Marshall’s Creek, owned by ESU, for a fly-fishing course, and the former Fernwood Resort in Bushkill for an ice-skating class. 

After graduation, Formalarie got a job teaching and coaching at a small K-12 school in Westport, N.Y., on Lake Champlain. She taught health to seventh and eleventh graders and split teaching all the physical education classes with one other male teacher. As a result of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives funding from the federal government, it was the school’s first year of co-educational classes, and the concept was new to everyone.

Formalarie also coached four girls’ sports, including soccer, volleyball, and two cheerleading squads. She worked in that position for a year and a half before moving to New Jersey with her first husband. 

When finding a teaching job in New Jersey proved to be challenging, Formalarie went to the state Department of Labor to inquire about unemployment. She didn’t qualify for unemployment, but interviewed with the employment department instead, and ended up working for the state for the next 30 years in a variety of roles.

Formalarie balanced motherhood, raising two daughters and three stepchildren, and her career, which channeled the skills she honed at ESU: remaining flexible and open to opportunities and helping others achieve their goals. 

She started out working in career centers in Hunterdon and Warren counties as an interviewer, then as a career counselor, helping match candidates with the right job or funding their career education through state grants. She also worked with the state food stamp, disability issues and welfare reform programs. 

Formalarie then worked in Trenton, N.J. on a workforce literacy initiative program for the Department of Labor’s career centers, followed by work with the State Workforce Investment Board that created public policy for workforce development. She specialized in gender parity, disability, literacy, and workforce readiness issues. She also spearheaded their annual conferences held in Atlantic City and was a mentor to students from Rutgers University who would come to intern with her for the summer.

After eight years, Formalarie returned to the Department of Labor to lead a new grant program designed to grow the state’s main industry sectors. As she led the grantees, her career experiences came full circle.

“One of the grantees asked me, ‘what did you do before this?’ When I said I was a teacher and coach, she said that it made sense because I was such a good mentor and coach to them. My coaching background was still in play,” Formalarie said.

After retiring from the Department of Labor, she worked part-time as an administrative assistant to the CEO for one of New Jersey’s first non-profit medical marijuana program’s board of directors, until her retirement about four years ago.

Throughout her work life, Formalarie gave back to her community as a youth soccer coach, a school board member, and a board member of several not-for-profit agencies. She was also active in her church and served as her church council president. 

In her retirement, Formalarie enjoys traveling, spending time with her family and friends, and vacationing at her beach house in Point Pleasant Beach at the Jersey Shore. She and her fiancé enjoy going back to ESU for basketball games, alumni events, meeting old friends and attending Homecoming, which now holds a special place in their hearts.

For all that Formalarie has given back to ESU, her university experience has continued to give back to her in the most positive ways. In 2019, when back at ESU for Homecoming, Formalarie briefly saw her college boyfriend, John Stivala ’73. At Homecoming 2021, they met again, and this time, talked more. The two now reside in Effort and are engaged to be married in September. “Trissie” Pasch, her first friend at ESU, and still best friend, will be the maid of honor.

“It’s a dream come true,” Formalarie said.