Honorary Degree Recipients for Commencement 2010 Announced

Saturday, April 10, 2010

During its 145th Commencement ceremonies on its Lawrenceville campus, Rider University will proudly bestow honorary Doctor of Laws degrees upon David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corporation, and Dr. Thomas Wilfrid, executive director of the Princeton-based Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.
Cohen will be honored at Rider’s undergraduate ceremony on Friday, May 14, while Wilfrid will be honored the evening before at Rider’s Graduate and College of Continuing Studies ceremony on Thursday, May 13.

On Saturday, May 15, conductor David Robertson and Dr. Albert McNeil, professor emeritus of Music at the University of California at Davis, will receive the honorary Doctor of Music at Commencement exercises for the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Robertson will also deliver the Commencement address.

David L. Cohen is the executive vice president of Comcast Corporation, one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information, and communication products and services. Before assuming this position in July 2002, David served as a partner in and chairman of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms in the country.

From January 1992 to April 1997, Cohen served as Chief of Staff to the Hon. Edward G. Rendell, mayor of Philadelphia, where he played a critical role involving a variety of policy and operational issues relating to the city. 

Cohen serves on several distinguished boards and committees, including as chair of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, as chairman of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, as a member of the Board of Trustees of Penn Medicine, and as vice chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. He has also received numerous awards for his civic and charitable activities.

Cohen graduated from Swarthmore College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1977 and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, summa cum laude, in 1981. Cohen and his wife, Rhonda, have been co-chairs of the Rider University Parents Council for several years, and their son, Benjamin Cohen, will graduate from Rider on May 14 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication.

Dr. Thomas N. Wilfrid has served as executive director of the Princeton-based Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation since January 2008. Established in 1979, the Newcombe Foundation is dedicated to supporting individuals who are completing degrees in higher education. In 1981, Rider was among the very first colleges and universities to earn grants from the Foundation to initiate Newcombe Scholarships for Mature Women Students. Through grants every year since then, the Foundation’s scholarship contributions to Rider’s students have exceeded $1.1 million. During 2009-10, there were 42 recipients of Newcombe Scholarships at Rider, 20 of whom will be graduating at the May 13 Commencement.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Wilfrid taught and served in administrative positions at Mercer County Community College for 38 years, including 15 years as chief academic officer and two years as acting president. Among his many contributions to MCCC, Wilfrid helped to strengthen its partnership with Rider and improve the transfer process for MCCC students wishing to complete bachelor’s degrees at Rider. While at MCCC, Wilfrid served as chair of the New Jersey Community College Academic Officers’ Association.

Wilfrid has served Lawrence Township as president of its Board of Education, chair of the planning board, and mayor. He currently chairs the board of trustees of Every Child Valued, a nonprofit organization that provides after-school and summer educational enrichment programs to help disadvantaged children in Lawrence reach their highest potential.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Physics from The Cooper Union, Wilfrid completed a master’s in Physics at Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Conductor David Robertson will deliver the Commencement address at the 2010 Westminster Choir College of Rider University graduation ceremony. In October 2007, he conducted the Westminster Symphonic Choir and Lucerne Festival Orchestra in a series of performances that opened the Carnegie Hall season. A native of Santa Monica, Calif., Maestro Robertson has been hailed by the press as a brilliant artist and master programmer, and is considered one of today’s most important conductors.

In fall 2009, Robertson began his fifth season as Music Director of the 130-year-old Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, while continuing as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, a post he has held since 2005.

Over the last two and a half decades, Robertson has held several postings abroad. Prior to his Saint Louis Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestra appointments, Robertson was the first artist ever to simultaneously hold the posts of music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon and Artistic Director of that city’s Auditorium, positions he maintained from 2000 to 2004. From 1992 until 2000, he was music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, of which Pierre Boulez is Honorary President, and from 1985 to 1987, he served as resident conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

Robertson was educated at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied French horn and composition before turning to orchestral conducting.

Dr. Albert McNeil is a professor emeritus of Music at the University of California at Davis, where he served as director of choral activities for 21 years and head of the Music Education program. He taught courses in ethnomusicology at the University of Southern California for 12 years, and, in 1991, he was honored by his alma mater, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), as its Alumnus of the Year in the area of Professional Excellence.

The McNeil Jubilee Singers ensemble is McNeil’s creation. He has dedicated himself to upholding a choral tradition of excellence with the presentation of the concert spiritual and the ever-increasing contributions of African-American composers of concert music, opera, and theatre music. Under his direction, the Jubilee Singers have performed in 70 countries, including many in Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, and North and West Africa.

Formerly the director of the choir at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in L.A.’s historic West Adams District, McNeil is currently the director of Music at the Los Angeles-based Founder’s Church of Religious Science. He is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician and is often invited to conduct “honor choirs” throughout the United States and abroad.

Among McNeil’s many awards is the Michael Korn Award for distinguished conducting, from the Chorus America – Association of Professional Ensembles.

McNeil earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UCLA, and pursued his doctoral studies at the University of Southern California, the Westminster Choir College of Princeton, and the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland.

Back to Academics