By Rebecca Panico | Published April 29, 2016
Family, friends and faculty remembered Marcus Scroggins, a Kean student who died April 5 in a car crash on Route 27, as someone who had an inquisitive mind and was always willing to help others.
The English major from Edison – who was 32 at the time of the crash – was set to graduate in May after completing senior seminar, his only class this semester. He will receive a posthumous degree on May 19, a university spokeswoman said.
Joan Scroggins, his wife, said she and her husband started dating at 16 and have been “inseparable since.” They married in 2008. They never had the chance to have children, “but that was always our dream,” she said.
“He really was the love of my life and my soulmate,” she wrote in an email to The Tower. “Even after all is said and done I still sit here hoping that he will walk through the door whistling and ready to talk my ear off with all the things that had happened during the day.”
The driver of a U-Haul truck apparently crossed into oncoming traffic while traveling north on Route 27 when it side swiped a car, mycentraljersey.com reported. Authorities said the truck continued driving on the wrong side of the road where it crashed head on into Marcus Scroggins’ car.
No charges have been filed against the U-Haul truck driver, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office told The Tower.
Marcus Scroggins expressed interest in getting his master’s degree after he graduated, “but hadn’t totally decided yet,” his wife said. He wanted to teach or work in ESL classes, or work with charities and nonprofits, she said.
“Again, he just loved people and helping them,” his wife said, later adding that he became more invested in church recently and began reading the bible more.
Dr. Nira Gupta-Casale, his senior seminar professor, remembered him struggling to come up with a topic for his final paper because he found so many topics interesting.
In emails to her, Marcus Scroggins expressed an interest in feminism studies, especially after writing a short paper on the author Jane Austen for class.
“I just wanted to say happy Women’s Day,” Gupta-Casale read from an email he wrote to her in March, “and that my views have changed a lot after reading more on gender studies. Originally I felt weird about not seeing more males’ voices in this field of study. That would be narrow minded. Feminism is for men too.”
He later added that because of the feminist theories he began researching, “I can live my life more aware.”
Gupta-Casale paused for a moment after reading the email. “So someone like that,” she paused again, “I wasn’t worried about him.”
Students in Marcus Scroggins’ classes knew him well too, Gupta-Casale said, because he often gave them ideas for their own projects.
One of Gupta-Casale’s students in her senior seminar class broke down crying when she spoke of Marcus Scroggins’ death in class. That student, she said, told her she passed by an accident on Route 27 on April 5 around 2 p.m., but didn’t learn until later that it was probably the accident that killed Marcus Scroggins.
Other professors, like Dr. Dean Casale, remembered Marcus Scroggins as a motivated student, although it was sometimes difficult for him to balance schoolwork with his job as a manager at Sam’s Club, they said.
“He had a real sort of inquisitive mind. He was somebody who liked to talk in class and always had a kind of interesting point of view,” said Casale, his former American literature professor. “That’s one of the heartbreaking parts of this is that he worked so hard in school.”
Marcus Scroggins also read and wrote a lot on his own time, professors said.
“He’d say, ‘I read this the other day and want to share it with you,’” said Casale. “So he was always somebody who was thinking and a real pleasure to have in class.”
Dr. Susanna Rich, who was his advanced poetry writing professor last year, was making plans to go with Marcus Scroggins and another student to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival starting April 29.
“He wrote really, really beautiful poetry,” Rich said. “He was the kind of person that would coach other students in class and help them with their papers. Y’know, very, very generous. He was just a joy to be around.”
A Gofundme page was created by two of his wife’s childhood friends, Lauren Alarie and Christine Rollman. By the time of publication, the account exceeded its goal of $15,000 with $16,635, all of which was raised in 23 days.
“My heart is so heavy for [Joan Scroggins] right now,” Alarie wrote to The Tower via the Gofundme website. “He and Joni were like 2 peas in a pod. You could see so much of one within the other… He was so uplifting and had so much love to give and so many jokes to tell.”
“That’s not to say he didn’t take life seriously, but definitely never wasted a moment on feeling down or being boring,” she added.
Students in need of counseling are encouraged to visit the Kean Counseling Center, located in Downs Hall room 127. Employees may seek assistance via the Employee Assistance Program by calling (908) 497-3954.