Peter Borghesi ’74 — Teaching Students with Autism, a Second Career

Peter Borghesi ’74 — Teaching Students with Autism, a Second Career

After Peter Borghesi ’74 graduated from Fairfield University he would often think back on some of his professors, especially those in the English department. What always struck him was the enthusiasm those professors displayed teaching their classes. The seed was planted: Borghesi knew he would one day become a writer.

Well, that day finally came in early 2018 when Borghesi’s book Am I a Teacher? was published. His book can be ordered online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites and is available in Kindle, Nook, or softcover format. It can also be ordered by visiting any Barnes & Noble bookstore.

“As a student, I promised myself I’d someday write a book,” said Borghesi, who lives with his wife Nadine ’75 in Sunrise, Fla. and Ortley Beach, N.J. The couple’s two grown daughters, Cara and Renee ’10, have gone on to become successful adults in their respective careers.

Am I a Teacher? tells the story of Borghesi’s first year teaching children with autism. “It was difficult to see the way these students – most not more than eight or nine years old – suffered through the tantrums and anxiety attacks caused by the darker side of autism. No amount of textbook knowledge prepared me for their worst days.”

Teaching is a beloved second career for Borghesi. He worked for thirty years at Verizon, and when the company offered a corporate buyout to management employees in November 2003, he took it.

The transition from working to not working was “extremely difficult” for Borghesi. “For the first time in my adult life I didn’t have a job. With two kids ready to start college, the repercussions were unsettling. I no longer was the telecom manager who implemented solutions for the information super highway. Somewhere along the way I had let my career define me. Without a job and without a purpose, I was nobody.”

That feeling did not last long. “The prospect of teaching rekindled a flame that had turned to ashes so many years before. I went back to school and earned a teaching degree in the field of special education.”

Mulling his career path, Borghesi said, “When I was with Verizon, my rewards were shiny plaques or letters of commendation, which I proudly hung on my office walls. Monetary awards like bonuses and pay raises for a job well done helped fill my bank account. But none of these compared to the rewards I received when I began to see progress in my students. When one of them – a boy who was unable to speak more than a few limited words like ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – began reciting the alphabet, or another child – who went into a debilitating frenzy whenever his routine was slightly altered – began to accept change, I received a reward that was greater than anything I had experienced in my former career.”

Prior to Fairfield, Borghesi attended St. Peter’s Prep, a Jesuit high school located in Jersey City, N.J. His school counselor urged him to go to Fairfield and one day handed him the University’s yearbook. He paged though it and, after some thought, decided that Fairfield University was where he wanted to be.

We all experience failures and setbacks, but we should not use these as reasons to quit. Perseverance builds character and creates opportunity.

He related a humorous story. “The summer before my freshman year, my parents announced that we should drive up the Merritt Parkway to visit the school. Of course I was anxious to see Fairfield’s campus since I had seen only black and white pictures from the yearbook. My parents had next door neighbors with whom they were very friendly. When they heard that my parents were taking me to see Fairfield, they invited themselves to come along. Subsequently, these neighbors told another couple to join. The 1967 Chevy Impala that my parents owned seated six people. With my parents and their friends going to Fairfield, there was no room in the car for me. I decided to let them go without me. My mother smiled at my generous offer and said, ‘Don’t worry son, we’ll tell you all about it.'”

As his parents and their friends drove away, Borghesi hitched a ride with a cousin to the Jersey shore. “I never saw Fairfield’s campus until freshman orientation.”

He reflected back upon his college years. “At Fairfield University I went from being a somewhat naive teenager to a young adult. I developed the ability to think pragmatically and carried that trait into my careers. The friendships I made at Fairfield continue nearly 45 years later. The miles between us are bridged by common ground. We all grew up at Fairfield. It was a wonderful four years.”

Borghesi cited a quote by Alexander Graham Bell: “When one door closes another opens.” He added, “We all experience failures and setbacks, but we should not use these as reasons to quit. Perseverance builds character and creates opportunity.”