By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND — Dr. Elizabeth Arthur struggled with the term “role model” in describing how others view her and other many lifetime accomplishments, but her biography clearly says that she should be comfortable with the term.
Arthur is currently serving as the first ever African American president of the Vineland City Council. The former school board member who earned her doctorate degree in business administration from Walden University, teaches computer science at Rowan College at South Jersey-Cumberland.
“Well, I’ve never even thought about [my accomplishments] as being a role model,” Arthur recently told Front Runner New Jersey. “I just don’t think of it that way. More and more, people have said, ‘You are!’ and I said ‘Well, maybe I am but that wasn’t the intent.'”
“My intent was to just to help somebody see their way through. Sometimes I have to laugh at myself because I didn’t start out thinking about doing this as a role model, but just doing it to help somebody else,” she said.
Arthur’s Second Act
Arthur’s role as college instructor is a second act for her. She worked more than 30 years in the scientific glass industry, beginning as a purchasing administrator and buyer for Wheaton Industries, and retiring as a business system analyst with Gerresheimer Glass.
She first served on the Vineland school board. In fact, she served on the school board with David Acosta, who is now vice president on Vineland’s City Council. She said it was Acosta who first approached her about serving on City Council.
“He explained to me that they had the young lady that was on Council step down because she moved outside of Vineland,” Arthur said. “From there, I ended up being appointed. I just like to know how things are run, but I also like to be a help more on the positive side of making our community better.
“I wasn’t born and raised here, but my ex-husband is from Vineland and I’ve lived here for a little over 50 years. All of my children were born and raised here. At this point in my life, I said, ‘You know, I’m settled here. What can I do to help?'” she added.
Teaching With Wisdom
Arthur graduated from Cumberland County College with an associate degree in business administration. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Thomas Edison State College, an Executive MBA from Georgian Court University and a doctorate in business administration degree from Walden University.
Along with teaches at RCSJ (the former Cumberland County College) she also instructs at Raritan Valley Community College. She previously served as a computer tutor at the Vineland Public Library.
Arthur said she did not return to school until after she had her children, which gave her a different perspective about not only education but the students she now teaches.
“You know, it’s a different experience,” Arthur said. “It gives you a different perspective of what people go through. Going to school later in life, you’re trying to accomplish different things. It gives you a look at what your constituents are going through; if you’re having a tough time or if they’re thinking about making a change in life.”
She said during the pandemic, it’s been harder to build a relationship with her students through Zoom.
“I prefer the face-to-face because then I think you have more interaction with the students than we do over online or Zoom,” Arthur said. “I think it helps the students when they see you. They know what you’ve gone through. It’s hard for me to give them that same perspective online versus being face-to-face.”
Arthur said she sees teaching was her way of giving back to the community and helping the next generation find their way, even if they have to make an exit or two along the way.
Never Say “Can’t”
“If you put your mind to it, if you set a goal to stick to it, you can be successful,” Arthur said. “I always tell students that it’s like being on a highway. You’re taking a trip. It’s a journey. Sometimes you have to take an exit and that’s okay. But at some point, you have to get back on the road so you can complete your goal.
“I think some students were struggling with that. I think it gave them a different perspective, having someone come from that kind of process. I just tell them that, ‘You can do this,’ you know, just have to set some priorities,” she continued.
Arthur’s community activities include being chair of the Vineland Education Foundation since 2003 and being a board member of Visions of Hope, Inc., For eight years, she served as a board member of the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties.
She is also a member of the Cumberland County College Alumni Association and the New Bethel AME Church in Vineland.
The Wilmington, N.C. native is the “proud mother” of three children, Dale S. Arthur, Jr., Darrell S. Arthur and Heather R. Garrison, along with 10 grandchildren.
As the first Black woman to lead Vineland city council, Arthur embodies the attitude of possibilities which she said she learned at a young age.
“When I was growing up in the South, I attended an all-Black school and I remember my music teacher telling us all the time, ‘Do not say you can’t. You can do anything you set your mind to.’ I kept that in my head. You know, over all this time I appreciate him for constantly saying that to us,” Arthur said about developing her own “can do” spirit.
“It’s something that I tried to impart to my children. All three of my children are married and have families. I sometimes hear them talking to their kids the same way. I asked them, ‘Where did you hear that from?’ I laugh at myself because I thought they weren’t listening to me.”
Now, everyone in Vineland gets a chance to listen to Arthur and her wisdom on city council.
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