It was a day of inspiring words and accomplishments when Rider University introduced its newest graduating class at its 146th Commencement exercises on Thursday, May 12, and Friday, May 13, on the Lawrenceville campus. The 549 graduate and College of Continuing Studies students who earned degrees on Thursday, as well as Friday’s 916 baccalaureate recipients, were joined by 92 undergraduates and 70 graduates who earned degrees at Westminster Choir College’s 82nd Commencement activities on Saturday, May 14, at the Princeton University Chapel. In all, 1,627 degrees were conferred over three days, marking the largest-ever graduating class from the University.
In his remarks to the graduates, President Mordechai Rozanski commended them for their academic success, declaring they have much to look forward to.
“And as you leave us and embark on the next stage of your life, do so with great pride because you are joining a distinguished family of more than 50,000 alumni of Rider University,” said Rozanski, Rider’s president since 2003. “These alumni are accomplished men and women who have made and continue to make meaningful contributions worldwide. I have no doubt that you too will achieve significant success and bring great credit to yourselves, your families and your alma mater.”
Valerie Conigliaro ’11, a Liberal Studies major from Lawrenceville who earned a Bachelor of Arts, spoke on behalf of the graduating class on Thursday evening. Conigliaro, who came to the United States from France in 1994 as a 24-year-old who spoke no English, became a licensed general securities representative before pursuing a college degree.
“Like millions of immigrants, I saw America as the land of opportunity. But I also I knew I would have to work for it. I did not speak English, but I learned. I had no jobs, but I found one,” Conigliaro said. “I started by making copies, and fetching coffee and newspapers for some financial wizards in New York. For more than 10 years I worked, and seized every opportunity that this country and its people offered. When I realized that because of my lack of diploma, my will and work ethic no longer sufficed, I came here and got one. I was a statistic; I am now a success story.”
Rance Robeson ’11, an English major from Willingboro, N.J., who earned a Bachelor of Arts, was selected to speak on behalf of the graduating class on Friday morning. Raised in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, the Iraq War veteran battled through a drug-addled home life and subsequent homelessness before enlisting in the U.S. Army three days after September 11 in his quest for an education. Robeson graduated magna cum laude.
“We’ve trained hard for the many matches that await us. Through our time at Rider, we have gained the technical skills to succeed not only individually, but as a nation,” Robeson said. “We have been molded into critical and creative thinkers, giving us the ability to see and solve world issues differently from previous generations. And note, this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to our predecessors; without you there would be no ‘us.’ We are proud that you trust us enough to eventually pass the baton. You believe in us. We believe in us.”
Honorary degrees were conferred upon Dr. Martin L. Perl, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics, and Rider alum Sam A. Solomon ’90, a senior vice president with Sears Holdings Corporation, at the University’s Lawrenceville campus ceremonies. A science educator at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and the SLAC National Accelerator Center of Stanford University, Perl was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the tau lepton, the heaviest known member of the electron-muon-tau sequence of charged leptons. His work also led to the discovery of the third generation of elementary particles.
Solomon recently joined Sears Holdings Corporation (SHC) as a senior vice president. SHC is the parent company of Kmart, Sears, Roebuck & Company, and is the nation’s fourth-largest broad-line retailer. From 2007 until last month, Solomon was president and CEO of The Coleman Company, Inc., a leading provider of outdoor recreation consumer products. During his time at Coleman, Solomon provided leadership in the acquisition of a number of related firms, helping to propel its parent company, Jarden Corporation, from a middle-market company into a Fortune 500 corporation and top consumer products business.
On Saturday, Westminster Choir College of Rider University awarded the honorary Doctor of Music to American conductor Stephen Paulus, whose prolific output of more than 200 works is represented in many genres, including music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, solo voice, keyboard and opera, has been hailed as “...a bright, fluent inventor with a ready lyric gift” by The New Yorker.
One of today’s preeminent composers of opera, Paulus has written nine works for the dramatic stage. The Postman Always Rings Twice was the first American production to be presented at the Edinburgh Festival, and it has received nine productions to date.
In addition to the conferral of degrees, the Rider University Awards for Distinguished Teaching, selected annually by the University Honors Council from nominations submitted by Rider students, faculty and academic administration, were presented to Dr. Brooke Hunter, professor of History, and Dr. Stefan Young, professor of Theory and Composition at Westminster Choir College. Dr. Stefan Dombrowski, professor of Graduate Education, was presented the 15th annual Dominick A. Iorio Research Award, recognizing the outstanding research and scholarship of Rider’s senior faculty.