Once the grills and tents were packed away on Saturday, June 13, Reunion Weekend 2009 took on a decidedly more formal tone. Jackets were donned as the time arrived to pay homage to a number of alumni who have become sources of tremendous pride to the University community. Three distinguished Rider University graduates were fêted for their philanthropy, generosity and leadership, both on campus and in their greater communities, at the Alumni Awards presentation in the Mercer Room of Daly Dining Hall.
E. Yvonne Baskerville ’74 received the Gordon E. Prichard Award for Volunteer Service, United States Marine Corps Maj. Mark E. Slusher ’90 was given the Harold L. Conover Leadership Award, and Gary Pruden ’83 was presented the Rider University Distinguished Alumnus Award for exceptional professional achievements.
Explaining the significance of the awards, Rider President Mordechai Rozanski said that all of the honorees “have offered Rider service, generosity and philanthropy.
“Rider University and its alumni are inextricably bound,” Rozanski explained. “The success of our alumni brings luster to our University, and the greater prominence enjoyed by Rider, the greater our alumni’s pride is in their alma mater.”
E. Yvonne Baskerville was presented the 2009 Gordon E. Prichard Award for Volunteer Service. The award is named for Prichard, a member of the Rider Class of 1963, who served with distinction as a member of the Alumni Association Board.
Under Baskerville’s leadership and guidance, the Alumni Association’s Alumni of Color has quickly become one of Rider’s most active affinity groups, growing daily in size and vigor. Similarly, Baskerville has also been instrumental in the creation of and the momentum behind Rider’s D.C. Metro regional alumni chapter, serving the University’s Washington-based graduates.
Baskerville has earned numerous awards and special recognition for her achievements, including the Outstanding Academic Excellence Award from Southeastern University’s Public Administration Department, the Service Integration Pioneer Award from Montgomery County Health and Human Services, and inclusion in Who’s Who of American Women.
“Four years ago, when we started to reactivate and involve ourselves with the University through Reunion Weekend, I had no idea I’d be standing here today,” said Baskerville after receiving the Prichard Award. “The opportunity to volunteer and to give back means so much to me.”
Maj. Mark E. Slusher was given the 2009 Harold L. Conover Leadership Award, an honor named for the graduate of Rider’s Class of 1923. Conover was the prime mover in establishing the Alumni Association and became the association’s first president. He was also a member of the University Board of Trustees, for which he served as secretary for many years.
Slusher was honored for his heroism in the United States Marine Corps, in which he has held numerous positions of distinction. In 2007 and 2008, Slusher advised an Iraqi Army battalion commander in the city of Basra while fighting insurgents, repeatedly being exposed to enemy fire. There, he rescued five fellow soldiers after a missile slammed into their truck, moved them to safety and administered first aid.
For his heroism, Slusher received several military awards, including the Bronze Star with Combat Valor, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and various campaign ribbons.
“How does being a marine relate to an award from an academic institution?” Slusher began to ask after being presented the Conover Award. “Well, I received a firm foundation for my career at Rider, and one thing I’ve learned is that leadership is leadership, whether you’re in the board room or the battlefield. I think back on the guidance and mentoring I received here when I’m mentoring young soldiers.”
Gary Pruden was presented the 2009 Rider University Distinguished Alumnus Award for his exceptional professional achievements with Johnson & Johnson. Pruden has enjoyed a remarkable career for nearly 25 years with Johnson & Johnson, beginning as Territory/Hospital Representative for Janssen Pharmaceutica in 1985 and continuing through his current position as Company Group Chairman for Ethicon Inc., where he is responsible for the four separate business units of the $4 billion Ethicon franchise, which conducts business in 52 countries and employs approximately 11,000 people.
As director of marketing for gastroenterology, Pruden’s campaign won the “Ad of the Year” award from Med Ad News. As vice president of marketing for primary care, he led a 30-percent franchise growth in one year. As president of Janssen-Ortho, Inc., he was responsible for all aspects of the J&J pharmaceutical business in Canada. Janssen realized 28-percent growth in 2004 and 15-percent growth in 2005 to become the fastest-growing large pharmaceutical company in Canada during his tenure.
“As fondly as I recall my time at Rider, I think the thing I enjoyed most was the people I met here, including my wife of 24 years,” Pruden said after being given the Distinguished Alumnus Award. “But I always appreciated the wonderful atmosphere of a small school that allowed me to focus on my academics.”