When Matthew Schaefer started his freshman year at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), he set himself a lofty goal: In four years, he’d graduate with a perfect grade-point average.
As NJIT’s May 17, 2007 graduation at Continental Airlines Arena approaches, Schaefer will have met his goal. The Randolph Township native will graduate with a 3.988 accumulated average. This past March, NJIT’s mechanical engineering department and Newark College of Engineering (NCE) named him outstanding senior. Also to his credit is membership in two honorary societies, two professional societies, and NJIT’s Albert Dorman Honors College.
(ATTENTION EDITORS: Schaefer will be available for interviews, 8:30 a.m.-noon, May 17 at the Arena. Call Sheryl Weinstein prior to event at office (973-596-3436) or at event by cell (974-650-6489) for photos or interview. High-resolution photos sent upon request.)
“As a sophomore I got a B+ in linear algebra,” said Schaefer “and that’s why I missed a 4.0. I was also taking differential equations that semester and I think I underestimated how hard linear algebra is. I was a little disappointed but I figured it was just one B+ and I kept aiming for As."
More accomplishments abound for this Morris County native. Schaefer participated on a student team to design and race mini-Baja cars, and he helped another team build a remote-controlled plane. As part of a senior design project, he developed a human-powered still to purify water. Schaefer, an Eagle Scout, also has a finely tuned social conscience. He is a member of Habitat for Humanity at NJIT. This past summer, he interned for Thornton Tomasetti, a New York City engineering firm.
Earning an engineering degree at NJIT follows a Schaefer family tradition. Robert, Schaefer’s father, now the Livingston Township engineer, received a civil engineering degree in 1972. His uncle Richard McCann, who runs his own construction company, earned the same degree in 1970. And his younger sister, Erin, is a freshman in New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT. Alice, the graduate’s mom, a former school teacher, said her son’s success resulted from his own work ethic. “My husband and I never pushed him. It was Matt’s idea to aim for a 4.0. He works hard, is goal-oriented and self motivated. He’s always been very curious.”
Alice Schaefer added that subscriptions to magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics inspired her son. “He liked to lose himself in them. Reading about cars was his favorite pastime,” she said. His dad believes that his son succeeded because he was content. “He always told us how happy he was at NJIT," he said.
Following graduation, Schaefer will attend Rutgers University to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Asked to explain why he set himself the goal of achieving a 4.0 GPA, Schaefer said he strives for perfection.
“I figured I should take advantage of the clean slate I was starting at NJIT, and accomplish more than I did in high school,” he said. “I also realized that my academic performance could have a big effect on where I'd work or go to graduate school. I developed part of my work ethic in the Boy Scouts. My parents also have a lot to do with my work ethic. They always encouraged me to work hard and promoted academic excellence. In doing so, they were careful not to push me so hard that I was always studying and not enjoying life.”