David Karas/The Times

Nicholas Yovnello, a Monroeville resident and president of the Council of New Jersey State College Locals, was killed in a two-car accident in Sewell on Saturday afternoon, according to union leaders.

Nick Yovnello
Nick Yovnello

Yovnello, 65, also served as a professor and assistant director of the library at Rowan University, Glassboro. Most recently, he played a significant role in negotiating a tentative agreement between the Council and the state, representing faculty and staff at public institutions across who have been working for more than a year without a contract.

“He was a great man, who was a dedicated union leader for more than four decades,” said Nat Bender, communications director for the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union. “He was a great advocate for higher education.”

According to a letter from Federation of Rowan College Employees President Karen Siefring, Yovnello died in a car accident.

The Washington Township Police Department was not able to provide comment on the details of the crash yesterday.

“I am kind of in shock,” said Ralph Edelbach, president of the AFT at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, and a colleague of Yovnello’s for a number of decades. “It is hard to imagine something like that happening.”

Edelbach recalled speaking with Yovnello after the end of many negotiating sessions last week.

“As we were leaving the successful conclusion of our most recent negotiations Monday evening, I shook his hand and expressed my appreciation for his guidance, words of wisdom and steady hand…while we were at the table with the State,” he said. “Knowing the future challenges we face in NJ, it will be difficult for us to find a person to take over for Nick.”

Yovnello is survived by two brothers and a sister, and services are expected to take place on Friday.

Edelbach said that Yovnello, a strong negotiator, always knew when to be serious, and when to inject a little bit of humor. He said he is still coming to the realization that Yovnello won’t be at the negotiation table with him the next time around.

“It was a nice wrap-up,” he said of the recent negotiations. “I (just) never thought that it would be his last one.”


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