For alumni Chris and Rebecca Fitzpatrick, this year was their third time attending Montclair State University’s homecoming events with their son Liam. The couple took Liam to see their favorite places on campus when they were students.
“Last year we were mostly taking him places, but now it’s more about him taking us places since he is old enough to run around,” Chris Fitzpatrick said.
For Rebecca Fitzpatrick, she was accepted to several colleges and universities, including Penn State. However, her mother Teresa Mackay graduated with a sociology degree from Montclair State University in 1975, and her input helped Rebecca Fitzpatrick select a college.
“I felt like she influenced me to go [here],” Rebecca Fitzpatrick said. “But I was also drawn to Montclair State and being able to commute five minutes away from Clifton [New Jersey] helped make my decision to register there.”
Chris Fitzpatrick made his choice in enrolling at Montclair State for a different reason. He struggled academically in high school and was not accepted into many colleges.
“My scope was limited, but it worked out well for me and my wife,” Chris Fitzpatrick said. “It felt like a new start. I was comfortable and thrived in a diverse atmosphere.”
Back in 2001, Chris Fitzpatrick had been highly engaged in student activities and organizations. He was vice president of the SGA, on the wrestling team and created Active Students Serving in Society (ASSIST) — all while double majoring in management and marketing. One of his responsibilities included welcoming incoming freshmen at their orientation. Rebecca Fitzpatrick was one of them.
“I heard about him before I even saw him,” Rebecca Fitzpatrick said. “He was such a good speaker. I loved what I heard before I saw him. He was very dynamic and passionate about Montclair State.”
A few weeks after the freshmen orientation, 9/11 happened. The SGA was setting up candle vigils on campus and working with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to help the community grieve. Rebecca Fitzpatrick expressed interest in helping out.
“Rebecca came into the office and asked ‘How can I help and make this process easier?'” Chris Fitzpatrick said.
The next year, the two were dating. He referred her as the first lady of the student government when he became SGA president.
Chris Fitzpatrick graduated in 2004, while Rebecca Fitzpatrick graduated in 2006 as an early childhood education major. She had also been heavily involved in student organizations. She was vice president of the Montclair State chapter of Sigma Alpha Lambda, a national leadership honor society, and she was part of the Campus Recreation team.
Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dr. Karen Pennington remembered Chris Fitzpatrick and Rebecca Fitzpatrick as “quintessential student leaders.”
“They were active, committed and made every effort to do what was best,” Pennington said. “It was a pleasure to work with them.”
After a few years of dating, Chris Fitzpatrick proposed in Ireland. They married in 2009 with a rock ‘n’ roll themed wedding. One of the guests was Victoria Nauta, who had been their friend for over 15 years.
During summer 2016, the Fitzpatricks helped Nauta’s daughter Samantha McKoy, a sophomore fashion studies major, move into her dorm room.
“They’ve been around for a majority of her life, so when they volunteered to help, she took them up on their offer immediately,” Nauta said. “They have such enthusiasm and really bleed Montclair [State]. I wish every alum were as passionate about their alma mater the way that Chris and Becky are about Montclair [State].”
McKoy’s dorm room was coincidently across the hall from Chris Fitzpatrick’s sophomore year dorm. It was a nostalgic moment for him and a monumental day for McKoy.
“I was actually very happy that former Montclair State students helped move me in,” McKoy said. “They told me all about life [at Montclair State], and it made my transition a lot easier knowing certain things they told me. I adjusted to college life very well due to all of the advice that was given to me by my family and the Fitzpatricks.”
In 2016, the Fitzpatricks were expecting their first child: a boy. They attended their first homecoming with Liam still inside the womb. Liam will be 19 months old on Thursday, Oct. 11, is now learning what it means to be a Red Hawk.
“We call our son ‘our baby Red Hawk,’” Chris Fitzpatrick said. “He won’t remember this, but we want Montclair State to be a familiar place for him. When he’s older, he can decide naturally on what college is best for him. Outside our blood relatives who have attended the university, we also have a close group of friends from Montclair State that are his extended family.”
Chris Fitzpatrick has enjoyed a successful career with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for nearly 13 years. In the talent acquisition profession, he often finds himself helping Montclair State students and alumni find careers.
Rebecca Fitzpatrick is now a first grade teacher at Clifton School No. 17 in Clifton. She enjoys taking her students to Montclair State’s theater program for field trips.
The Fitzpatricks serve as mentors now for current students to smooth their transition from high school to college life. They will be celebrating the 16th anniversary of their first date on Thursday.