PARAMUS, N.J. – When Suzanne M. Helff returned to Bergen Community College in 1997 after taking time away to raise her daughter, she decided to pursue a degree related to a lifelong passion: the care of animals. Tragically, Helff never completed her studies in the institution’s veterinary technology program, passing away shortly after her return to the College that same year.
Twenty-two years and $100,000 in donations from friends and family later, the facility housing the veterinary technology program will bear her name.
The College officially rededicated its veterinary technology building “Suzanne M. Helff Hall” during an Oct. 3 morning ceremony attended by Bergen President Michael D. Redmond, Ph.D., trustees, Bergen Community College Foundation directors, students, current and former faculty and staff, local labor leaders, members of the Helff family and government officials such as Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders Vice Chair Mary Amoroso, Chair Pro Tempore Joan Voss, Ed.D. and representatives from offices such as District Five Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
“Suzanne was a lifelong animal lover who cared for creatures large and small both at home and as a volunteer at local shelters,” President Redmond said. “Today, we celebrate her life and the contributions of faculty, staff, Helff family members and the community who pledged their support for this dedication.”
The rededication marks the completion of a fundraising effort led by retired Bergen professor Peter Helff, Suzanne’s father, to secure $100,000 in donations toward veterinary technology student scholarships through the College foundation. Two decades ago, Helff worked with foundation officials to establish the naming opportunity and fundraising goal in his daughter’s memory.
Freeholders Amoroso and Voss and Bergen professors Fred Golub and Peter A. Helff – Suzanne’s brother – also offered remarks.
“This is somber in that it brings back things for my family that we never thought we would deal with in our lives,” he said. “But there were a lot of good times. We grew up with a lot of pets mostly brought in by my sister … and that passion carries on. All of my family, we all have pets and that has to do with my sister and the passion she instilled in all of us.”
Bergen’s veterinary technology program prepares dozens of students each year for careers as veterinary technicians who assist veterinarians in animal practices and laboratories.
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: Bergen Community College and government officials joined the Helff family during the rededication of Suzanne M. Helff Hall.