Oral History with Jeff Lucker
Interview with Jeff Lucker conducted by Kim Marks on April 21, 2023. Recorded at the Princeton Public Library. Part of the Voices of Princeton partner project with the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer County.
Jeff Lucker’s biographical statement:
I was born on April 21st, 1945 in New York. My parents at the time lived in Manhattan, but moved to Brooklyn shortly thereafter.
I spent my childhood in Brooklyn graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in 1961 at the age of 16. I spent a year at Colorado College after which I transferred to the University of Wisconsin where I received my BA with honors in history in 1965, my Masters in history in 1968 and then spent a year taking education courses culminating in my student teaching at Madison Memorial High School.
My intention was to stay in Madison, Wisconsin, but there were no jobs available there and at the last minute I was notified of a job opening in Princeton, New Jersey to replace a teacher who was going on a half-year sabbatical leave.
I arrived in Princeton knowing little about the community, and if I had any preconceptions, I presumed it would be a college community similar to Madison, which it wasn’t.
I have lived in Princeton for the last 53 years while teaching at the high school.
As long as I can remember my passion has been travel and over the years I have spent some time in 43 American states and have visited well over forty countries in every continent but Antarctica. I have hitchhiked through western Europe, taken a solo bicycle trip across France and made a number of trans-Atlantic crossings by ship. I would tell my students that if they ever ended up living overseas they shouldn’t invite me to visit unless they meant it because I have a way of showing up. Over the years I have visited former students in Japan, China, France, Spain, Ghana and Argentina.
In 1984 one of my students, Maud Mandel, introduced me to her mother, Ruth Mandel, a single parent who was a Rutgers professor at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute. We ended up spending the next 35 years together until my wife’s death in 2020. Over those years she became the director of the Eagleton Institute while her daughter Maud pursued a career as a major in history and Judaic studies ultimately becoming the Dean at Brown University and then the president of Williams College.
My wife was born in Vienna and after her father was released from imprisonment at Dachau her parents were able to book passage on the ill-fated ship the St. Louis with its over 900 passengers seeking refuge in Cuba. After Cuba denied them entry and the United States followed in turn, the passengers ended up in Antwerp where they were divided among four countries. My wife’s family were among those fortunate enough to be granted refuge in England where she spent her first nine years before the family moved to the United States.
While my wife was often called upon for her expertise on American political women and as well as her role as an administrator and professor at Rutgers, she became heavily involved with the US Holocaust Museum where she was a presidential appointee on the US Holocaust Memorial Council.