During its 147th Commencement ceremonies on its Lawrenceville campus, Rider University will proudly bestow honorary degrees upon Dr. Maureen Maguire ’75, Carolyn F. Jones Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Aaron Gast, emeritus Trustee on the Board of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation of Princeton. On Saturday, May 12, Dr. Morten Lauridsen, Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, will receive the honorary Doctor of Music at Commencement exercises for the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Lauridsen will also deliver the Commencement address that day.
Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, Rider University has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Friday, May 11, the honorary Doctor of Science will be bestowed upon one of its alumnae, 1975 graduate Maureen G. Maguire, Ph.D.
Maguire joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in July 1994 to establish the Center for Preventive Ophthalmology and Biostatistics. Since then, she has held leadership positions in several multicenter clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration sponsored by industry and the National Institutes of Health. In addition, she was actively involved in the development of the Vision in Preschoolers Study, a National Eye Institute-sponsored, multicenter, clinical investigation of methods for screening young children for vision problems.
As a student at Rider, Maguire was an Andrew J. Rider Scholar and led the Math Club. She graduated summa cum laude as Mathematics major and was chosen as the valedictorian of the Class of 1975. She received her doctoral degree in 1983 from the Department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and subsequently joined the faculty of the Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, at Johns Hopkins.
In 1985, she was named principal investigator and director of the Coordinating Center for the Collaborative Corneal Transplantation Trials.
Rider recognized Maguire’s achievements in ophthalmology and clinical research in 2011 when she was inducted into the Science Stairway of Fame.
Aaron Gast, Ph.D.,who recently retired after more than 32 years of service on the Board of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation of Princeton, will be presented the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University’s Graduate and College of Continuing Studies ceremony on Thursday, May 10.
Since its inception in 1979 through the end of the 2011 academic year, the Newcombe Foundation has provided more than $17 million in grants for mature women students at 58 colleges and universities in the United States. In 1981, Rider became the first school in the United States to receive funds from the Newcombe Foundation, and since then, it has received more than $1.2 million in scholarship support.
One-third of this total was used to establish an endowed scholarship fund for sacred music students at Westminster Choir College. The remaining two-thirds has funded scholarships for 600 mature women who have graduated from Rider University. This year, Rider will confer degrees on 10 proud Newcombe Scholars.
In December 2011, on the occasion of Gast’s retirement from the Newcombe Board, the Foundation made a major gift to Westminster’s proposed new academic building in support of that project. Gast’s wife, Mickey Gast, a Westminster alumna and member of Rider’s Board of Trustees, is co-chair of the Westminster Campaign Committee.
Aaron Gast served as the pastor to Charlotte Newcombe at the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown in Philadelphia during the final 11 years of her life. During his time at First Presbyterian, Gast guided the congregation in instituting 30 new programs, organizations and features in the church’s life. Significant among them were tutoring sessions and Daily Vacation Bible School. He is also the former dean of the Conwell School of Theology at Temple University. Currently, he is a member of Westminster Choir College’s Dean’s Advisory Council, Westminster Building Campaign Committee and Legacy Society.
Gast earned a Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College in 1950, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1953 and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh in 1956. He was honored with the Doctor of Humane Letters from Davis & Elkins College in 1981, the Doctor of Divinity from Ursinus College in 1982, and the Doctor of Law from Bloomfield College in 1987.
Morten Lauridsen, D.M.A., is a Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music whose work occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the 21st Century. Lauridsen chaired the Department of Composition at the Thornton School of Music from 1990 to 2002, and founded the School’s Advanced Studies Program in Film Scoring. He was also the Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1995 to 2001.
Lauridsen’s seven vocal cycles (Lux Aeterna, Les Chansons des Roses, Mid-Winter Songs on Poems by Robert Graves, Madrigali: Six “FireSongs” on Italian Renaissance Poems, Nocturnes, Cuatro Canciones and A Winter Come), instrumental works and series of a cappella sacred motets, including O Magnum Mysterium, are regularly performed throughout the world by distinguished artists and ensembles, and have been recorded on more than 200 CDs. His five Grammy-nominated recordings include two all-Lauridsen CDs, entitled Lux Aeterna, by Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by Stephen Layton, and by the Los Angeles Master Chorale under the baton of Paul Salamunovich.
His O Magnum Mysterium, Dirait-on, O Nata Lux and Sure On This Shining Night are the all-time best-selling choral works distributed by the Theodore Presser Company, a music publishing firm founded in 1783, and his life as a composer was documented in the award-winning 2012 film, Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen, by Michael Stillwater.
In 2006, Lauridsen was named an American Choral Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. The following year, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest artistic award in the United States, by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony in recognition of “his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power, and spiritual depth.”