Sometimes events can shape our lives in ways we never imagined. Such was the case with Barbara Karpinski, professor of psychology and education, when her eight-year-old daughter Susan died of leukemia in 1984.
“After she passed, I didn’t know what to do with myself,” says Karpinski, who had quit college in her freshman year to get married and have children. She later decided to take one course at County College of Morris (CCM).
“I told my professor that if I got an A I would continue with my schooling,” she recalls. She did, and went on to earn an associate degree in social work. From there, she went to Rutgers University to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.
While at Rutgers, she taught classes at CCM.
“By 1991, when I was full-time, CCM offered me the opportunity to start an early childhood program,” she says. “I was in my forties. I knew little about it. It was a rather new thing making it academic.” She researched the subject by visiting daycare centers and public schools. She joined the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a group that gave her the education and support to put the early childhood curriculum together. The final program she created, with help from her CCM colleagues, began as a certificate and evolved into a two-year degree.
“Early intervention is important because by the time a child is three, enough damage can be done that they may not learn to their full potential,” she says. “Since I had a little girl who died so young, I did this in her honor. Rich or poor, we love our children and want the best for them.”
In reflecting on the program, she adds, “My CCM teachers were the ones who encouraged me to do this. I had no idea I was able to do such a thing. I was in my forties when I attended CCM. The lesson learned was that you’re never too old to make a change in your life and reach for something you wished you could have done.”