Richard Roper graduated from Rutgers-Newark with a bachelor's degree in economics and completed a master's in public affairs at Princeton University. During his years at Rutgers-Newark, he served first as the president of the NAACP chapter, and then as co-founder and president of the Black Organization of Students (BOS), which was organized out of the time of social unrest following the Newark Riots and an era of civil rights struggle. After college Roper held a number of positions in Newark and federal government. He was a legislative aide and lobbyist for Newark's first African-American mayor, Kenneth Gibson, served as director of the Office of Newark Studies, was appointed special assistant to the secretary of commerce, Juanita Kreps under the Carter Administration, and served for 12 years as assistant dean at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Joseph Browne founded the Black Organization of Students (BOS) together with Richard Roper. Browne grew up in Newark and attended white Catholic schools prior to coming to the university. He had left Rutgers for a time to join VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and participated in the Newark City Council election of 1968.