The English Patient

Jules L. Plangere Jr., once deficient in English, mastered his shortcoming, thrived in the publishing world, and now underwrites students with similar remedial needs. This year, his alma mater recognized his achievements with membership in the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Jules L. Plangere Jr. thought Asbury Park High School had prepared him well for college, but, like many young undergraduates, he soon discovered his basic communication skills weren’t up to par. “I thought I was fairly efficient in writing until I took a couple of tests,” recalls Plangere RC’44. A professor also recognized the first-year student’s academic weaknesses and suggested help. Plangere signed up for a remedial writing class that immediately boosted his grades and had a lasting impact on his life.

I thought I was fairly efficient in writing until I took a couple of tests [at Rutgers].

Jules L. Plangere Jr., Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni inductee

Decades later, after a storybook career in newspaper publishing, Plangere and his wife, Jane, endowed the writing center in the School of Arts and Sciences that bears his name. (The couple, who split their time between Spring Lake, New Jersey, and Boynton Beach, Florida, also endow scholarships at Rutgers and fund the Plangere communication center at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, which houses the student television studio and radio station.) The Plangere Writing Center at Rutgers provides tutoring in basic composition, advanced research, and scientific and business writing to 1,200 students a year. The Plangeres’ donation has allowed the center to remodel facilities, retain experienced tutors, expand tutoring hours, and develop online tutoring services.

Plangere’s college career was cut short by World War II. He enlisted in the Army after sophomore year in 1942 and served as an antiaircraft artillery officer in the South Pacific and as an aide to the U.S. Peace Mission in Korea. Afterward, he jumped at the chance for a steady paycheck—a management-trainee program under the G.I. Bill at the Asbury Park Press paying $37.50 a week. He rotated through virtually every aspect of the newspaper business, from selling ads to covering stories. “When you finished [the two-year program], you knew all of the operation,” says Plangere.

He rose through the ranks of the Monmouth County-based daily with such savvy that publisher Wayne McMurray willed his protégé half of Asbury Park Press Inc. in 1974. He presided over the state’s second-largest daily for more than two decades with partner Donald Lass before a confluence of forces—the climbing costs of newsprint and employee benefits and the loss of advertising revenue—caused them to rethink their investment. They sold to Gannett in 1997, but Plangere keeps a hand in media as an owner of Press Communications LLC, the parent company of a half-dozen small radio stations including 98.5 FM, a pop station at the Jersey Shore.

(This story is excerpted from “Star Gazing” in the Spring 2011 issue of Rutgers Magazine.)