Feature Stories

Austin Derogatis - Civil Engineering

Austin Derogatis

Austin DeRogatis, a scholar athlete who excelled both academically and athletically at NJIT, has been accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the fall, he’ll begin a master’s degree in civil engineering at MIT.

DeRogatis, who graduated this May, finished with a near-perfect grade point average of 3.93. He was a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College and the first baseman for the Highlander baseball team. He is a definitive scholar athlete who was recently named to the NCAA Division I Independent All-Academic baseball team.

He also applied to and was accepted at Stanford, Cornell and the University of California at Berkeley. But he chose MIT, the school he thinks has the superior civil engineering department.

“I went home for the weekend a few weeks ago and my dad handed me a letter from MIT,” recalled DeRogatis. “I opened it up and read it and said, ‘I got in!’ My dad starting shouting, ‘Congratulations!’ and when I told my mother she was so happy she nearly cried.”

If not for the rigorous civil engineering education he received at NJIT, DeRogatis said, he couldn’t have gotten into MIT. DeRogatis was part of a student team that placed fifth in a national concrete cylinder contest. The civil engineering department at NJIT has a national reputation for excellence, and its students commonly win national competitions. Recently, a student team won a major steel bridge competition. And in February, a civil engineering team won a national seismic award for designing an earthquake-proof building.

At NJIT, DeRoatis focused on structural engineering, the field within civil engineering concerned with the design of load-bearing structures. Structural engineering combines mechanics with the design of buildings, bridges and walls. It’s a field that calls for a mastery of mathematics and physics -- two subjects he loves.

DeRogatis, a gregarious and good-natured student, often tutored his teammates in both those subjects. He didn’t do it for money. He did it for free -- out of the goodness of his heart.

“Austin tutored me in calculus and physics since I was a freshman,” said Thomas Farina, a sophomore player who also majors in civil engineering. “Austin is a brilliant kid and a great ball player. We players have to maintain a certain GPA, and Austin’s been a Godsend to the team because he’s tutored and helped so many of us keep our grades up. We are really proud of him for doing so well at NJIT and continuing on to graduate school.”

DeRogatis grew up in Toms River, N.J., a town that is a perennial powerhouse in baseball. He started playing baseball when he was two years old and later, as an elementary school student, he showed a precocious capacity for math.

“At an early age, Austin loved math and had way of figuring out problems in his head -- the ability was just here,” recalled his mother, Angela DeRogatis. “When Austin was little I used to tell people I should send him to school with a briefcase. He was so serious and mature. We always encouraged him to do well in school, and we are thrilled that he did so well for NJIT.”

DeRogatis attended Toms River South High School, where he, along with his older brother Anthony, helped the school’s baseball team win two state championships. Academically, DeRogatis continued to excel in math as well as in science. When he was a senior, he wanted to attend a university that had a good baseball team and a nationally ranked engineering school.

NJIT fit his needs on both fronts: DeRogatis was accepted and won both academic and athletic scholarships. And luckily for him, his four years at NJIT overlapped with the elevation of the university’s sports program. His freshman year, for instance, was the first time the baseball team played its home games at the Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, home of the Newark Bears professional baseball team and the NJIT Highlanders. And this is the first season that the team is competing at the Division I level. The team still has a few more games to play this season, and though Austin has graduated, he continues to play.

“All good high school baseball players dream of playing Division I ball,” DeRogatis said. “I had the chance to do that while also receiving a great education. You can’t beat that.”

Playing Division I baseball has been demanding, he says, but the benefits have been manifold. “We’ve played better teams, we traveled more -- to Florida, Georgia, Utah and Virginia -- and playing at Newark Bears stadium has been fabulous.”

His parents often drive to the stadium from their house in Toms River to watch him play. DeRogatis had a birthday recently, and his mother baked cupcakes for the entire team. During a recent home game, she distributed the cupcakes to the players, who ate them in celebration of DeRogatis’s 22nd birthday. And though he’s a man, his mother still refers to him, her youngest son, as “my baby.” The cupcakes, and his mother’s term of endearment, are indicative of the kind of family he grew up in: a loving Italian family, with plenty of pasta and “gravy” cooking on Sundays, and plenty of parental love and encouragement to go around -- all he needed to succeed academically and athletically.

“My parents always worked hard and gave me all I wanted,” said DeRogatis. “We are the definitive happy loving Italian family. They always encouraged me to do well in school, and I always studied hard to make them proud of me. My doing well in school is my way of giving back to them.”

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)