Jim and June Go to CCC

By Mickey Brandt
Watch The Grapevine for more profiles in this series of CCC Distinguished Alumni honoring the school’s 50th anniversary.
It was the early 1970s. Vineland High School sweethearts Jim and June (DeRuchie) Rocco, were in their 30s and married with a home, jobs, and children. So, they enrolled in college full-time, too.
“I hardly ever slept.” said Jim, at that time a detective with the Vineland Police Department, who entered Cumberland County College in 1972, six years after it opened. “I worked, took classes at Cumberland, and got to as many state police training courses as I could.”
June, who enrolled a year later, said, “It wasn’t easy, I had to make a lot of sacrifices.”
The college was close by, affordable, and offered a flexible schedule that working adults could handle. If you had the ambition and staying power, you could earn a degree. Many mature students found their life choices greatly expanded by going to community college in Vineland.
“When Jim started, he was getting too smart for his britches,” June said. “I had to catch up. I tried one part-time course and was hooked.
“I had to stay ahead of her, so I worked on quoting Faulkner and Hemingway from Mr. Gibb’s world literature class,” Jim said.
June did catch up by taking courses faster. After earning their A.A. degrees at Cumberland and successfully transferring, they graduated together from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in May 1976. June’s bachelor’s degree was in education and she went on to a 25-year career with Vineland Public Schools. Jim got his B.A. in criminal justice and moved up the ranks of the department, serving 28 years there, then working for the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s office for another 10. He’s in the CCC Distingushed Alumni Gallery. They live in retirement in Smithville.
June was a secretary when she made her leap to full-time student and resigned the job.
“I couldn’t see myself doing payroll when the kids were gone, I wanted to have a better life,” she said. “I had the kids and the house and all, this was my one opportunity. I think it helped that Jim was already enrolled.”
In class, the mix of traditional college students and older people helped create some interesting times.
“We had the life experience and we weren’t quiet about it,” June said. “You get everybody else going—it was a lot of fun for me.”
In that era, the couple shared classrooms with young people who opposed the Vietnam War and the military and wanted to upset the “establishment.”
“I had a different attitude, so we had some discussions,” Jim said. “I mean it never went to punching someone or cussing them out—just discussions.”
For Jim, his college education led to expanding opportunities in his field. For June, she referred to it as her “way out.”
She said, “My parents’ education ended at age 13, it limited them so much. I was the first in my family to attend college. It was a blessing.”