Despite the struggling economy, Grace Johnson never lost sight of her dream of attending Rider University, followed by medical school and eventually becoming a doctor. After all, as the freshman Biology major puts it, if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Johnson, this year’s recipient of the Johnson & Johnson Pre-Professional Healthcare Scholarship through the Independent College Fund of New Jersey, shared her own story as one of the keynote speakers during the Scholarship Stewardship Luncheon on April 29 in the Bart Luedeke Center Cavalla Room.
Even though Johnson’s parents had three children enrolled at various universities at the same time, they advised Johnson and her siblings to “get into the college you love and somehow the financial assistance will be there.”
After visiting Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, Johnson said she was hooked.
“The Biology department was everything I ever wanted and more. It was the perfect size, the perfect distance from my house, and on the perfect campus,” said Johnson, who is interested in the field of podiatry. “The only thing that concerned me was the tuition. Having no college funds and no money in my bank account, I applied and prayed for the best.”
Johnson said her prayers were answered when she received a phone call from the University. Along with her academic scholarship and other financial aid, she had been chosen for the Johnson & Johnson scholarship, which covered the rest of her tuition.
“If there is a will, there is a way, and the Johnson & Johnson scholarship was my way to attend Rider University,” said Johnson, adding that both her siblings are also currently in college. “I thank God that I’m one of the lucky students who were chosen for this scholarship and hope that others like me will find the same kind of generosity during their times of struggle, when they need it most.”
Johnson’s inspiring story captured the essence of the annual event where more than 50 student recipients of Rider scholarships are able to meet their benefactors and express their gratitude for helping them pursue their dreams.
Jonathan Meer, vice president for University Advancement, said the University is able to meet increased student need through the generosity of donors like Philip Frowery. Meer shared how Frowery, benefactor of The Philip R. Frowery Organ Scholarship in Honor of Joan Lippincott, increased his contribution in order to meet the financial needs of the student recipient.
In another example, Meer described how John Bartlett Jr. ’42, who himself was a recipient of student financial aid, never forgot Rider or the opportunities the University provided him. Rider has since established The John S. Bartlett, Jr. Scholarship, endowed upon his passing with a gift from his estate of $100,000, which will be awarded in perpetuity for generations of Rider students.
“Given that our students will not have less need going forward, but greater need, we hope to be able to share many more stories like these in future years,” he said.
Rider President Mordechai Rozanski said scholarship donations come from a broad spectrum of donors, including alumni, faculty, staff, parents, foundations, business firms and friends. In fact, these donations combined with the University’s resources have helped increase the scholarship and grant fund from $24.2 million in 2005 to $41.7 million next year, an impressive 72-percent increase.
“Your support is transforming lives and opening doors of opportunity for our leaders of tomorrow,” Rozanski said to the scholarship benefactors in attendance. “In these very challenging financial times, your support is even more significant because it is making a university education possible for many who could not afford it.”
In remarks to the scholarship recipients, Rozanski said “these scholarships provide you an extraordinary gift and a wonderful opportunity to advance your education.”
“We very much hope that, in the future, when you have achieved personal and professional success, you will remember your donors’ example and do everything you can to give back to the University’s scholarship program to help continue the cycle of philanthropy that has helped make your Rider experience possible.”
Graduating Music Theater majors Amanda Baumler and Nicholas Hardin entertained the audience with their solos, with Louis Goldberg as the faculty accompanist. Baumler sang “I Think That He Likes Me” by Kooman and Dimond, and Hardin followed with a rendition of “She Loves Me” from the show She Loves Me by Harnick and Bock. Baumler and Hardin ended the luncheon with a closing duet performance of “Suddenly Seymour” from the Little Shop of Horrors by Menken and Ashman.
Patricia Witkowski ’03, who retired last year, was also honored during the luncheon when she received a Certificate of Appreciation for her dedication to Development Office and organization of the Scholarship Stewardship Luncheon during her tenure.