Unlike most of his peers in Rider’s Class of 2013, José R. Rodriguez ’13 is not embarking on a professional career. He is answering a call.
The Mercerville, N.J., resident has spent the last 18 years happily working for McMaster-Carr, an industrial and commercial facilities supplier in Robbinsville, but he aspires to make the religious ministry his life’s work. Rodriguez will begin his pursuit a Master of Divinity at Cairn University (formerly Philadelphia Biblical University) this fall after earning a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with a minor in English through Rider’s College of Continuing Studies (CCS).
“It was a calling,” said the husband and father of three, whose father was a pastor. “It runs in the family. It chose me; I didn’t choose it.”
The work is not unfamiliar territory to Rodriguez, already a certified minister with the Assembly of God who has also spent the last decade with the House of Peniel Worship Center in Trenton. Through these affiliations, he has been volunteered at the Albert C. Wagner Correctional Facility in Bordentown for the past 15 years, mentoring and leading by example. Education, he says, is the key to success.
“My passion is to help troubled young men in our penal system,” explained Rodriguez, who calls earning a degree one of his greatest accomplishments. “There have been many obstacles and achievements in my life, and I am the first of four siblings to obtain a degree, so when I recommend these former inmates go to college, they know they can do it, regardless of their age or background.”
Just as Rodriguez seeks to boost the confidence of the young men he mentors, he too has been the beneficiary of his trusted advisers in CCS.
“One of the things I’ve come to love about Rider, particularly CCS, is the level of confidence they produce in you,” he said, noting the work of Angela Gonzalez Walker, assistant dean of CCS, who served as his academic adviser. “She has always been so positive and helpful in my academic decisions. Even at times when I didn’t think I could do something, she always pushed me and I’m grateful for that.”
Walker’s faith in her student has propelled him to spots on the Dean’s List and recognition as an Andrew J. Rider Scholar in 2009. Most recently, Rodriguez was awarded the College of Continuing Studies Citation for Achievement at the Awards Banquet on May 4.
“My time here at Rider has been very rewarding and fulfilling,” Rodriguez said. “I’m very thankful.”