Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Milton H. Gelzer

  • "I shall find the path or I shall build one."
The Toms River Schools Hall of Fame Board of Trustees is pleased to honor Retired New Jersey Superior Court Justice Milton H. Gelzer as its Distinguished Honoree for 2007. His selection is an acknowledgement of his profound and lengthy commitment to the betterment and welfare of the school district.

Judge Gelzer was born in July 1933, the second son of Abraham and Fannie Gelzer. During his youth, the Judge had been an honor student, an Eagle Scout, a member of the Order of the Arrow, a glee club member and bandsman (trumpet) and a letter winner in track for discus and shotput.

He was educated at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, NJ, graduating in the Class of 1951. Upon his graduation from Rutgers University (College) in 1955, where he was an honor student, Judge Gelzer was the recipient of a full scholarship to Rutgers Law School, graduating in 1957 with a Doctor of Laws degree. After completing his military duty in the U. S. Army at Fort Monroe, Virginia and having been honorably discharged as a Corporal, Judge Gelzer practiced law in Toms River from 1958 until his appointment to the Superior Court by Governor James Florio in 1991.

While in practice, he specialized in school law and represented, at various times, eight separate school boards. Judge Gelzer sewed as a member of the Toms River Board of Education from 1959 to 1962. In 1962, he was chosen as attorney for the school system. He served the Toms River Board of Education for 30 consecutive years as its attorney and the Board of Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools for the first 25 years of the district's existence. Additionally, at various times he also represented six other school districts in Ocean County.

It has been estimated that that he performed legal sewices for the construction (or renovation) of 16 different Ocean County public schools, during his legal career, many of which were in the Toms River School District.

As recognition for his, at the time, 25 years of service to the school district, in 1988 Judge Gelzer was honored at a dinner given by the Toms River Board of Education. The net proceeds of the dinner were used by Judge Gelzer to endow the Milton H. Gelzer Valedictorian Award, a scholarship still awarded each year to the valedictorians of the three Toms River High Schools. At the same dinner, Judge Gelzer was given diplomas from each of the three high schools and the two existing Intermediate Schools. He thus became a member of the Class of 1988 of those schools.

Further manifestation of Judge Gelzer's deep commitment to education is his service as a member of the Board of Governors of Rutgers University. He was also a founding member of the Rutgers University Foundation, the fund raising arm of the University. He also served on the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education. For his service to his Alma Mater, he was named a Loyal Son of Rutgers and presented its pin. On two other occasions he was asked to serve on the Trustees Boards of both Ocean County College and Stockton State College.

In 1991, after being sworn in as a Superior Court Judge, he was assigned to preside in the Monmouth County Court House in Freehold. During his tenure as a judge, he was known for his affable attitude and his ability to encourage settlements among the litigants. He was complimented by New Jersey Chief Judge Robert Wilentz for the manner in which he treated indigent litigants, particularly in landlord, tenant disputes. He presided over Civil and Family Court matters. After his retirement from the Bench, he served as Counsel to two different law firms. He also participated in arbitration and mediation (Alternative Dispute Resolution) and helped settle many cases. His fluency in the German language has enabled him to help many Holocaust survivors.

Judge Gelzer's civic and community involvements are legendary. He has been a member of Congregation B'nai Israel of Toms River for over 50 years and has sewed on its Board of Trustees and as Vice President. He was also the Congregational Youth Chairman for 13 years and helped to develop strong chapters for the synagogue's 2 youth groups. He was also the recipient of the Adolph Wolley Good Scout Award by the Boy Scout Council of Ocean County; the medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Man of the Year of Toms River B'nai Brith. The Judge has also been honored by the George Van De Veer American Legion Post for his sewice to community youth. He has frequently been called upon to write letters of reference for college applicants.

Judge Gelzer was married in 1956 to Janice Smith of Toms River (a Toms River graduate), whom he met in undergraduate school at Rutgers. They celebrated their 5oth wedding anniversary on December 22, 2006. They are the proud parents of two daughters that graduated from Toms River High School North and the equally proud grandparents of three grandsons. The Judge is an avid reader of history and historical novels. In addition, the Judge and his wife are opera lovers and frequently attend the Metropolitan and City Operas in New York City. They are also theater-goers. They are extensive world travelers, having visited 35 different countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and all parts of North America.

Because of Judge Gelzer's extraordinary interest in and commitment to the quality of education in the Toms River School District, the Hall Of Fame Trustees wish to thank and acknowledge him for his demonstrated service. He, in a multiple of ways, has contributed to the betterment and outstanding reputation of the school district. For this, and for so many other things, he deserves our praise and deepest thanks for being a partner in the educational enterprise in the Toms River Regional School District.

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