Edward M. Eissey
From the Palm Beach State College 80th Anniversary President's Report: 1933- 2013
If there was one person who personified the College, it was Edward Michael Eissey. Born in Boston, the son of Lebanese immigrants, Eissey enrolled at Palm Beach Junior College, where he played left field on the baseball team and was voted Mr. Palm Beach Junior College in 1946. (His future wife, Faye Johns, was named Miss PBJC the same year.) After graduating in 1950 from Florida State University – where Eissey was student body president – he returned to Palm Beach County.
Eissey worked for 46 years in education, serving at every level. His first teaching job was at Palm Beach High School, and he soon was principal at Greenacres Elementary, Howell Watkins Junior High and Palm Beach Gardens High. Eissey then became an area supervisor for the county school district.
In 1973 he was appointed to the College’s District Board of Trustees, was made vice chairman in 1974 and later chairman. Eissey was named vice president of the Palm Beach Gardens campus in 1975. When Dr. Harold Manor announced his retirement, the Board of Trustees chose Eissey as the College’s third president. He had the distinction of being the first junior college president at the same school where he was an alumnus and a former trustee.
Almost immediately, Eissey made a profound impact at the College, campaigning in the Legislature and the community for a two-year temporary property tax increase for capital improvements at the main campus. Out on the stump the most frequently asked question was, “I don’t attend PBJC, what’s in it for me?” Eissey had an answer.
“Someone who served you today received training at Palm Beach Junior College,” he would say. “A nurse, policeman, real estate broker, dental hygienist – you cannot live in Palm Beach County without being touched by PBJC.”
The measure passed, netting the College nearly $9 million for what Eissey called “the three Rs – repairs, renovations and remodeling.”
Vigorous expansion of campus facilities, new and innovative educational programs, increased cooperation with business and industry and closer ties with local and state governments were the hallmark of Eissey’s administration.
“When Ed gets something on his mind, he persists and persists and persists until you yield just to get rid of him,” said Phil Lewis, former state senate president.
Later, as he made the rounds in Tallahassee seeking yet more funding for the College, this time for satellite campuses, legislators asked why he wanted so many campuses in one county. Eissey asked them if they thought it would be preposterous for Rhode Island to have only four campuses. When they said no, Eissey quickly informed them that Palm Beach County was almost twice as large as Rhode Island (it’s true, you can look it up).
During a special ceremony on Sept. 14, 1990, the Palm Beach Gardens campus was renamed the Edward M. Eissey Campus, in recognition of his years of service to the College.