Arthur and Cecilia Tolve

Arthur and Cecilia Tolve

Arthur and Cecilia Tolve, married for 45 years, exemplify the term “committed to the greater good.” When asked why they give, their response was: “That is the way we were raised: to help one another, family values, commitment, give to the poor. It is the discipline and instruction we received that goes back to our parochial school days. We were taught to respect and help others; and, if the situation warrants it, to pass the good deeds on to others that we received. Our assistance is not limited to education, nor is it limited to certain areas — wherever there is a need, and we can help, we do. We hope to be in a position to continue to help the students at BCC; to meet their aspirations; to succeed in life and to encourage them to make a commitment to the community.”

Together, Arthur and Cecilia have made tremendous contributions to BCC, which all stem from a commitment to excellence in education for the students who pass through our halls.

Arthur was a college professor for 33 years at Bergen Community College before his retirement in 2017. He held two master’s degrees, coursework toward a doctorate, and credentials as a Certified Executive Chef, a Certified Culinary Educator, and a Registered Dietitian. Throughout 50 years of teaching Dietetics, Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts, Arthur’s teaching style reflected his love for food and its preparation using hands-on experiences in each laboratory class. He always told his students that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a hands-on lab experience is worth a thousand pictures.

He was dedicated not only to teaching but also to course and curricula development in the Hotel/Restaurant/Hospitality’s Culinary Arts discipline, revising all of the curricula twice to advance course and curricula content to current educational standards. Arthur also published a textbook, two cookbooks, and four courseware packages.

Arthur brought to the classroom and laboratory kitchen a wealth of knowledge gained through his professional experiences. He described himself as a no-nonsense instructor because he believed that a professor’s job is to prepare students for the hard work that lies ahead. He taught students how to make themselves as indispensable as possible in the often unpredictable workplace.

In 2008, Arthur and Cecilia decided to take the next step and ensure that there would always be an endowed scholarship for Hospitality/Culinary Arts at Bergen Community College.

In 2010, Arthur and Cecilia learned about another growing problem many of our students faced after speaking with the Center for Health, Wellness, and Personal Counseling staff. As Art and Cecilia learned, approximately ten years earlier, the nurses and staff of the Health Services department noticed that many of the students coming to their facility were lethargic, somewhat depressed, and occasionally in need of nutrition. Using their own resources, they began to keep a jar of peanut butter, bread, and jelly available for emergency situations. While the need of some students had become known, the magnitude of the problem was not well established until a few years later when the Health Services department and Personal Counseling were merged and renamed the Center for Health, Wellness, and Personal Counseling. It soon became apparent that the need for assistance was more prevalent than envisioned previously as an increased number of students began seeking assistance, largely due to the economic downturn. A quiet appeal for more help was circulated throughout the college, most notably to Student Services. The roots of the Loaves and Fishes Fund were soon dependent on donations from four groups: Health Services, Student Counseling, Student Services, and Student Government. The available food items soon expanded from PB&J to other non-perishable goods donated by caring BCC employees.

As fate would have it, during an encounter with a student in Health Services, Professor Tolve entered the facility and inquired off-handedly about what they were doing. While protecting the student’s identification, the head of Health Services spoke to Arthur and revealed some of the details of the small outreach program that was being administered by her immediate staff. Professor Tolve made an immediate substantial donation of money to the cause, and the Loaves and Fishes Fund was officially created due to this generosity. Later, Arthur and his wife, Cecilia, made another donation of $10,000. With this second donation, the Loaves and Fishes Fund evolved from an informally funded outreach food pantry program to a fully functioning service for our students.

More significantly, however, as word spread, Art and Cecilia became the catalyst and role models for others who quietly and without formal recognition donate food, non-perishables, and sometimes money. Today, thanks to the Loaves and Fishes Fund, we are able to offer not only a limited quantity of non-perishables but also food vouchers to some of the local food stores.

Since 2010, the Tolves continued to identify additional needs at BCC. In 2011, the Culinary Arts Program was in need of three new commercial mixers used by students and instructors alike. The mixers needed were to replace older models without safety screens. Understanding the importance of safety, Arthur and Cecilia contributed the cost of the three mixers ($15,000.00) to ensure the safe use of the equipment for years to come.

Arthur passed away in 2021; still, the legacy of Arthur and Cecilia Tolve lives on.