Ernest "Bub" Kovacs was born in 1951 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Descended from Hungarian immigrants on the paternal side of his family, he grew up in the Hungarian-American community in New Brunswick. Kovacs attended public school in New Brunswick and graduated from high school in 1968.
Kovacs went to Rutgers College and majored in sociology, graduating in the Class of 1972. Following graduation, he went to Penn State University, where he worked and went to graduate school for a master's degree. He then worked at Penn State as a residence life coordinator.
Kovacs worked for many years at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) in residence life, student activities, as dean of students and as a business professor. During that time, he earned his Ed.D. at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers.
Over the course of his career, Kovacs has taught college courses in business and in the Certified Public Manager Program, which was based at the Bloustein School at Rutgers in the 1980s-1990s. He worked as the director of organizational development at the NJ Department of Transportation. In 2006, he became a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.