Doing Something Different: Meet Alumna Edith Jeffrey '62

Edith Jeffrey '62 hiking in Acadia National Park

Artist, world traveler, engineer– Edith Jeffrey has pursued all of these as vocations or avocations since receiving her NJIT degree in electrical engineering.

Now retired, her last position was vice president and senior project manager at Citigroup, capping a career in technology that spanned achievement at the leading edges of military communications and electronic funds transfer in the financial industry.

But Jeffrey had a very different career in mind when she started high school in West New York, New Jersey, where she became the founding president of her school’s National Honor Society chapter. She wanted to be an artist. As it turned out, Jeffrey demonstrated equal talent in science and math, and her parents suggested that she consider engineering as a career. This advice took her to Newark College of Engineering to join the two other women who were among the 636 graduates in the Class of 1962.

After graduation, Jeffrey combined work in engineering with studies at the Art Students League in New York City. In 1966, she accepted a position with Computer Sciences Corporation as a communications design engineer responsible for the design, development and implementation of microwave and tropospheric-scatter communications systems.

While employed at Computer Sciences, Jeffrey was asked to work in Heidelberg, Germany, on a contract the company was awarded to upgrade communications for the US Army. Her responsibilities involved analyzing and evaluating performance data, developing test plans and writing technical-performance specifications. Away from the workplace,she devoted time to learning German, studying stone sculpting in Mannheim, and touring the country on a motorcycle.

The Army contract completed, Jeffrey and several friends embarked on a 19-month drive from Germany to India and back. She says that the trip gave her pause to think about her next steps in life – which were first to return to the US and then move to San Francisco in 1971, earn a living as a commercial artist, and study sculpture, painting and drawing in Mexico.

“I think I just wanted to try something different,” Jeffrey says of following this new bearing on her personal compass. “I’ve always been willing to take certain chances. It’s easy to be comfortable in a particular niche, and some people are so comfortable that they never want to get out of that niche. When there’s something I have to try, when something takes hold of me, I need to do it.”

Returning to New Jersey in 1977 meant doing something different again, moving on to technical positions with growing responsibilities and greater accomplishments. However, Jeffrey also continued to enthusiastically experience the wider world by hiking in South America, Europe and our national parks, and driving a dog sled in Norway. She also found time to earn a brown belt in karate.

Since retiring in 2011, Jeffrey has been accepted for membership in the Art Students League in recognition of her extensive studies there during the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, she is taking classical voice lessons, once more studying German, and contemplating volunteer activities. Reflecting on this stage in her life, she advocates giving a lot of thought to what one really wants to do with new-found time that can be very satisfying and productive, not merely busy.

Jeffrey’s hope for young people just starting out is that they choose professional commitments offering the same fulfillment she has experienced as an engineer and artist. “And if you’re no longer enjoying what you’re doing, look for change. Don’t be afraid to look for something different. Don’t stay locked into something that’s making you miserable.”

Editor’s note: Edith Jeffrey shared a personal account of her career and often adventurous experiences in a special online feature published with the winter 2013 NJIT Magazine.