Alumnus of the Month: June 2009
James Coll '95
What is your edge (strength)?
I have always been a persistent person, and I believe that this – above all else – has helped give me an edge in life.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
Hofstra allowed me to realize that there was more than one side to every argument, to respect other opinions and, at the same time, to have confidence in my own views.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What was your major?
I was a history major and a political science minor.
What was your favorite class?
Any class taught by Professor Carolyn Eisenberg of the History Department.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My fondest memory at Hofstra was debating issues with Professor Eisenberg. We often disagreed, but she would always show me another point of view to consider.
What is your field of specialty, and what is it about your personality that helped you decide to work in the industry?
I have always enjoyed helping people, and from the time I started with the NYPD I have had the opportunity to do this on a frequent basis. My experience teaching American history as an adjunct professor at Nassau Community College has fit in with this characteristic as well.
Who in your field do you most admire, and why?
I have a tremendous amount of admiration for all the police officers of the NYPD. When the radio broadcasts an assignment, they never think twice about helping someone in need, regardless of social status, race, religion or any other factors.
What was your location as the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 emergency began to unfold, and what were your immediate reaction and thoughts?
When the calls first came that there was a plane on fire over the Bronx and then over Harlem, we recognized that it was heading our way. As we navigated traffic across the city and additional calls began coming in that it was a confirmed plane in the water, we went into a much more focused mode. We knew that an incident of this nature could have massive casualties and could be a crime scene, so we hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.
If ever placed in a similar situation, would you react in the same manner?
Although we were fortunate enough to get to the crash site very quickly with all the right training and equipment, I believe that any police officer in New York City similarly situated would have reacted the exact same way as my colleagues and I did that afternoon.
Would you change anything about the way you handled yourself and the attention given to the situation and passengers?
There is no job we go on that we don’t analyze and figure out what we could do better the next time. Being very critical of ourselves helps us to continually improve.
Has this experience changed your life? If so, explain how.
The experience of working for the NYPD has certainly changed my regard for how strong people can be under pressure. From the cop on the beat to the average citizen, helping each other face difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations brings out a side of many people that is spoken and written about much too infrequently.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating from Hofstra, which I secured through The Career Center, was working as a fraud analyst for MCI Wireless.
What advice would you give to current Hofstra students?
President Calvin Coolidge said it better than I ever could: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent."
How do you balance work and life?
Organization is the key to balancing a successful career and a happy home life. This equilibrium is something that most people struggle with every day, and I am no different in that regard.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
The most rewarding experience of my career has been working with the people I have come in contact with over the years. Sharing stories and laughs, making friends and doing the best we can, has made coming to work as both an educator and a police officer a truly great experience.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I hope to continue to be working in public service. While the money can be lucrative in other professions, I find that working to help people, as a police officer or a teacher or perhaps in some other calling, can often be its own reward.
When U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crash landed in the Hudson River, James Coll '95 was a first responder on the scene. In 1997, James joined the 'family business'—like his father and brother before him—when he was sworn in as a police officer in the New York City Police Department. James worked in other patrol assignments before being selected in September of 2002 with the distinct honor to be part of the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit (ESU). In 2004, he was promoted to detective and continues to work in the NYPD assigned to ESU. After joining the department, James returned to school to earn a Master's Degree in History from Hunter College. In addition to taking additional graduate courses in constitutional history, James is also an adjunct professor of American history since 2001. In his work with the NYPD, James has been awarded numerous times, including a Mayor's Certificate of Appreciation for an elevator rescue during the blackout of 2003, a commendation from the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York for a water rescue in April 2006 and Cop of the Year from the New York City Police Foundation for efforts during the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 plane crash in the Hudson this past January.