Peter J. Costigan collected awards and citations from schools and organizations all over New York for his work as a former state assemblyman and trustee of St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.

But he was most proud of his role in making it easier for students from low-income families to attend private colleges, said his widow, Victoria Costigan.

Peter Costigan, who died last week, led the Assembly’s Select Committee on Higher Education when he sponsored a bill calling for the creation of the Tuition Assistance Program. The bill was signed into law in 1974.

Known as TAP, the program was intended to encourage New York students to attend college in the state while closing the tuition gap between public and private universities. Today, the program grants recipients up to $5,165 annually, depending on family income and the school the student attends.

“The TAP program made it easier for people to get their children to go to school,” Victoria Costigan said Wednesday. “He was concerned about poor families in education.”

Peter Costigan, an attorney, died from cancer on Dec. 31 at the Jefferson’s Ferry retirement community in South Setauket, where he had lived for about two years. He was 85.

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Costigan, a Republican who had lived in Old Field for about 50 years, represented North Shore communities in the Assembly from 1966 to 1974, when he was defeated by Democrat George J. Hochbrueckner.

Costigan was born on Jan. 16, 1930, and raised in Queens. He received his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law and served in the United States Army.

He had a private law practice in Port Jefferson Station and was a St. Charles Hospital trustee for more than 30 years, serving as chairman of the board for two terms, his wife said.

Victoria Costigan said she met her future husband at a wedding in Richmond Hill, Queens. She said she spotted him across the room when his face was buried in a book.

“I said, ‘Who is that person reading a book?’ ” Victoria Costigan said. A cousin told her she wouldn’t be interested in the young law student.

“ ‘Well, he’s going to put down the book and ask me to dance,’ ” Victoria Costigan said, recalling her reply.

They were married for 58 years and enjoyed sailing their 30-foot sloop on Long Island Sound and the Great South Bay.

Former Assemblyman Peter J. Costigan, shown in a March 22, 1973 file photo. Photo Credit: Newsday / Bob Luckey

“He was a very active man and very, very active as an attorney,” she said. “He loved people, he loved work and it’s a great loss.”

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A funeral service was held Tuesday at O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Port Jefferson Station. Costigan was buried Tuesday at Calverton National Cemetery.