TEANECK, N.J. – The township’s governing body recently passed a resolution that not only recognized the impact on the community of longtime resident Carol Otis, but authorized the renaming of Birch Street in her honor. Otis, a philanthropist and former Bergen Community College Board of Trustees chair, passed away in 2019.
Township officials sponsored a celebration of Otis’ life October 3 attended by her family, friends and colleagues that featured the unveiling of rebranded street signs for “Carol D. Otis Way.” The event also included remarks by representatives of the many organizations that Otis devoted her time - including current Bergen Board of Trustees Chair Dorothy Blakeslee.
“Carol Otis knew more students by name than any other chairperson I’ve ever worked with,” Blakeslee said. “Not only did she know their names, she knew what high school they graduated from and - more often than not - what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. Sometimes she knew before they knew!”
Otis served as a Bergen trustee during terms from 2007 to 2012 and again from 2016 to 2019, leading the board as chair from March 2017 until her passing. She also represented the trustees on the Bergen Community College Foundation board of directors.
Otis joined the trustee board after a 33-year career as a family and consumer sciences teacher in the Teaneck Public Schools district. As a classroom educator, Otis became a leading voice in the field, publishing the New Jersey Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Advisers’ Handbook, co-editing the textbook “World of Food” and winning the National Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Distinguished Service Award. She also served as treasurer and membership chair of the Educators of Family and Consumer Sciences-New Jersey chapter, maintained numerous leadership roles within the Bergen County Education Association and New Jersey Education Association and additional positions within the Association of Community College Trustees.
Outside of the classroom and College, Otis remained active in Teaneck, contributing her time and resources to supporting causes that increased access to education and provided advancement opportunities for young people. Among them, for 35 years, she served as chair of the Community Scholarship Fund of Teaneck. Otis received numerous honors recognizing her selflessness, including the educator of the year award from the Teaneck Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor Lizette Parker Civic Achievement Award from the Cedar Lane Management Group and the Matthew Feldman Award for volunteer community service from Township of Teaneck.
The College honored Otis’ memory during a December 2019 celebration of life.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
Photo Caption: Members of the Otis family watch as “Carol D. Otis Way” becomes a reality in Teaneck.