Childhood Illness Shaped Graduate's Commitment to Public Service
He’s chair of the New Jersey College Republicans. But he also likes listening to punk rock bands who criticize politicians.
The apparent contradiction is nothing out of the ordinary for Connor F. Montferrat.
“I used to play in a punk band while having a second lead in Oklahoma,” he said. “The two never quite went together.”
Montferrat, a graduating senior in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), has a genial, open-minded attitude toward life that was shaped by his experience as a childhood cancer patient.
The Hightstown native was diagnosed with leukemia when he was four. He underwent chemotherapy as well as excruciatingly painful spinal taps.
“That’s probably the most vivid memory,” he said. “Back in 1995, they didn’t knock you out for the spinal tap.”
The cancer went into remission 14 years ago, when Montferrat was seven. But in the ensuing years, and through high school, he felt something was missing from his life, even as he threw himself into his schoolwork and other activities.
“I could never quite find my outlet,” he said. “I was constantly worrying about my health while playing sports or engaging in other activities.”
Then Montferrat arrived in New Brunswick as a Rutgers first-year student. He saw the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and the Cancer Institute where years earlier he had been a patient.
“I just thought to myself: ‘I have to do something!’’’ he said. “And then I knew that my calling was in public service and civic engagement.”
At SAS, he crafted a double major of Criminal Justice and Political Science, loading up on law courses, and becoming an undergraduate associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
He also began laying the foundation for a political career. He interned with the Governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the New Jersey Republican State Committee. He served as chairman of the New Jersey College Republicans, and as a Hightstown committeeman.
He’s planning to attend law school in hopes of becoming a prosecutor and then perhaps running for elected office.
As a cancer survivor, however, Montferrat understands life is fleeting. And he refuses to be typecast in his career.
Although he comes from a family of Democrats, he joined the GOP. As a Republican, however, he is also a bit of a maverick, criticizing the current party leaders and describing himself as an ardent environmentalist.
Discussing his future, he simply says: “I’ll probably have four different careers and 13 different jobs.”
He’s already doing the work that’s most important to him.
As an undergraduate, he has been an advocate for child cancer patients, constantly making hospital visits, organizing fundraisers and serving as president of the Childhood Leukemia Foundation. And he is gearing up for a campaign to get funding for stem cell research in New Jersey.
“My undergraduate years provided the path for personal transformation,” he said. “I’m thrilled I found my outlet.”