A Familiar Face at Alma Mater
Bill Armbruster '71 is a prominent fixture at Saint Peter's University. It's been 42 years since he graduated, but he is still very much involved at alma mater. Sometimes you can see him sitting in on class lectures, asking questions at seminars and special events on campus, or working out at the gym.
He's also an eager participant at open houses, where he touts the advantages of a Saint Peter's education to prospective students and their parents. The Jersey City resident also stays connected to New Jersey's only Jesuit institution for higher education as a member emeritus of the Board of Regents.
"I've been spending a lot more time on campus the past two years," Bill says. "I have become so much more enthusiastic about Saint Peter's, and it's largely because of the students. I frequently ask them how they like it here. The vast majority say they really like it. Many say they love it."
He added that Jim Dondero '70, a graduate of the University and guidance counselor at Saint Peter's Prep, had told him that recent Prep alumni, including transfers from other institutions, were very happy at the University.
Bill says the other principal reason for his enthusiasm is the faculty, which he describes as the University's biggest asset.
"Not only are they experts in their field and excellent teachers, but teaching is their top priority, unlike some universities where many professors view research as their top priority and teaching undergraduates as a nuisance," he says. "Saint Peter's emphasizes cura personalis—care for the whole person. It's more than just a slogan. In the case of Saint Peter's faculty, it's right on the money."
"I know at least 20 faculty members, and I see how they really care for their students," he adds. "Most of them know their students by first name—one of the benefits of the small classes at Saint Peter's."
Welcoming a New Era
The last few years have brought tremendous change to Saint Peter's, with the opening of the Mac Mahon Student Center and the achievement of university status. Bill has witnessed it all. But he's no stranger to changes at Saint Peter's, dating back to his days as a student activist in the late 1960s.
"It was a very tumultuous time," he says, noting that he was among the protesters when Richard Nixon came to Saint Peter's 10 days before the 1968 election.
Bill entered Saint Peter's in 1967, following in the footsteps of his older brothers, George '62, Bob '63 and Joe '67. He initially planned to major in sociology and then changed to urban studies before settling on economics, but destiny took him in a different direction.
After graduating from Saint Peter's, he attended graduate school at the University of Hawaii, where he earned a master's degree in Asian studies, with a concentration in modern Chinese history and politics. He spent three years in Taiwan studying Mandarin Chinese while teaching English. This is also where he launched his career in journalism, working as a freelance writer covering business and politics.
He spent most of his career back in the States as a reporter and editor with The Journal of Commerce, a New York-based daily business paper that later became a weekly magazine.
"The editor hired me because he was interested in my background in international trade, but there were no openings for a trade reporter," he says. "He asked if I would be interested in covering maritime. All I knew about maritime back then was that it involved water and boats, but I happily took the job."
"As a journalist, you get paid to be nosy. You have a license to ask questions, which is so much more fun than having to answer them," he jokes.
In 2004, Bill became editor of a small Journal of Commerce sister publication called Shipping Digest. When it folded in 2009, he began working as a freelance writer, using his expertise in shipping and international trade.
He still does some freelancing, but now considers himself mostly retired. That has given him time to help out at Saint Peter's, as well as talking with students and faculty. Besides his personal service to the Saint Peter's community, he has also created a gift annuity with the University to ensure deserving students have access to financial assistance.
"To whatever extent my donations might make a Saint Peter's education more affordable, I'm delighted to contribute," he says.
Bill notes that annuities provide tax benefits and guaranteed payments for life to the donor.
"It's also a very worthwhile investment if you care about making a difference at Saint Peter's," he says. "In a way, it's payback. I hope I can encourage people to do planned gifts as well as donating to the annual fund. That's absolutely critical."
He relishes the idea of leaving his footprint at alma mater, a school he loves and holds dearly.
"I hope that I'm helping to make Saint Peter's a better place, not only because of my donations, but also because of what I do to help students and to increase enrollment," he says. "I also hope that my donations and my enthusiasm for Saint Peter's will encourage other alumni to contribute."
Bill Armbruster '71 has one son, Christopher, who is an officer in the United States Army. Chris will begin his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in early 2014.
How You Can Help
To learn about setting up a charitable gift annuity at Saint Peter's, or to learn about other giving options, please contact Sharon T. Morrissey, M.B.A., M.Ed. '13 at (201) 761-6126 (office) and (201) 618-4230 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.