Monday, November 2, 2020 - 12:00
Notable alumni honored with annual awards
Five distinguished Rider alumni were recognized this fall for their professional accomplishments and outstanding contributions and service to their professions, communities and alma mater. The following outstanding alumni are Rider's 2020 Alumni Award recipients.
Michael E. Charles ʼ78 received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, which is given to alumni who have achieved exceptional attainments in life. Charles flourished during a career with United Technologies (now known as Raytheon Technologies), where he repeatedly earned company-wide recognition as a team leader and executive with responsibilities in the firm’s international business. He was selected from a pool of more than 200 employees to participate in the inaugural Sikorsky management leadership development program. He was also nominated to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship program, the highest honor in United Technologies Corporation. He is the first African American from the company to attend
In addition to his professional achievements, Charles is a committed community servant. He has been instrumental in supporting fundraising and alumni engagement efforts at Rider focused on the late Honorable Lawson McElroy. He has worked with the United Way of Greater Hartford Connecticut and served on the Sloan Fellow’s Board of Advisors. He is currently a board member of Omega Charities.
Charles received his Bachelor of Science in Commerce with a dual major in accounting and decision sciences and computers. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Omega Psi Phi, and he has remained an active, lifelong member. He was recently awarded the prestigious honor of District Omega Man of the Year for the region of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
"I am honored, proud, even overjoyed to be nominated for this award," he says. "I would like to thank the Alumni Board and the school administration for recognizing my efforts. I share this honor with the many alumni and friends whose committed and sustained efforts have brought forth a purposeful and energetic collective back to the University. They are an integral fabric in the tapestry of my life. I have been so blessed to have gained so many lasting friendships starting in my first year at Rider up until now."
Laura V. Mitchell ʼ07 received the Gordon E. Prichard ’63 Award for Volunteer Service, which is bestowed annually upon a Rider graduate who has distinguished him or herself as exemplary in providing volunteer service to the University.
Since earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Rider, Mitchell has proven herself to be an invaluable professional resource for Rider students interested in
working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry. Mitchell's involvement and insight has been instrumental in helping the University develop both its Semester in LA and its Spring Break in LA programs.
She is credited as a producer The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules and The Biggest Loser, among others.
"Thank you Rider University for continuing to believe in their students and me," she says. "Your support has created a significant impact on my life and inspired me to be an equal inspiration to the student I work with."
Dr. Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan ʼ90 received the Lawson R. McElroy Award in Engaged Learning, which is awarded to an alumnus or alumna who works in either the private or public sector in support of a student or employees learning outside of the formal classroom.
Scourfield McLauchlan is an associate professor of political science and the founding director of the Center for Civic Engagement at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where she is a nationally recognized expert in civics education and engaged learning. Among her many activities, she promoted civic engagement across the state of Florida while serving on the Florida Commission on Community Service at the appointment of Gov. Charlie Crist. She has taught abroad as a Fulbright Scholar in Moldova and Macedonia, teaching U.S. constitutional law and incorporating experiential learning opportunities for students. Her extensive experience in American government and politics includes work at the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House.
Scourfield McLauchlan received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Rider. She was actively involved in the Student Government Association and received the President’s Award in 1990. From 1999 to 2008, she was a member of Rider’s Board of Trustees.
"I want to thank my mentors at Rider who inspired me to pursue a career in college teaching and to provide engaged learning opportunities for my students," she says. "And I want to thank my dear friend Beth Zuczek '91 for nominating me. We first met at Rider while working together in the Student Government Association and have been great friends ever since. We worked together as students to create opportunities for engagement on campus and she knows I have pursued this passion as a career."
Betsabe Z. Castro ’05, ’08 received the Harold L. Conover Leadership Award, which is bestowed annually upon a Rider graduate who has distinguished him or herself as an exemplary leader in the field of nonprofit, professional, community or government service.
Castro earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting from Rider in 2005 and a Master of Business Administration in 2008. Her combination of education, strong business acumen, strategic problem solving and effective communication skills makes her an enthusiastic and inspirational leader within her area of the nonprofit world.
Currently, as a senior leader responsible for the financial management of an $8.2 million organization, she oversees the accounting, financial reporting and analysis, grant management, budgeting, investments, and audit functions of Innovate Public Schools in San Jose, Calif. Innovate Public Schools is a non profit organization that is building a movement of families, educators and elected leaders in order for all students — especially low-income students, students with special needs, and students of color — to receive a world-class public education that prepares them for success in college, careers and beyond.
Castro also serves as the executive director and vice president of development for The Honor Yoga Foundation in Princeton, N.J., and as board treasurer for Blue Sky Talk, a global nonprofit that provides a platform for changemakers, specifically small business entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and under-represented groups to elevate their voices and inspire their communities.
"I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award by an amazing institution that celebrates leadership in social justice," she says. "I hope this inspires future non-profit leaders, specifically women of color, to continue advocating for education, their communities, and most importantly, each other."
Gina Grosso ’11 received the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, which is awarded to an alumna who has completed her studies at Rider within the last 10 years and who has achieved notable success in her work.
Over the years, Grosso has worked with leading entertainment properties such as Netflix, ESPN, A&E and MTV. She has worked with clients ranging from Lexus, Adidas and Expedia, among many others. Projects she has worked on have gained critical acclaim from industry authorities such as Ad Age, Ad Week, the Emmys and the Oscars. She is currently the director of operations for T3 Studios for Team One USA, a fully integrated media, digital and communications agency.
As an undergraduate, Grosso was an active member of Rider’s student-run TV network, Rider University Network (RUN), serving as president for two years. While at Rider, she produced a documentary with her mentor, Dr. Shawn Kildea, and won three national first-place awards from the National Broadcasting Society (NBS) for filming, editing and producing. She also served as the national vice president of the NBS. Grosso received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.
"I’m honored to be a recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna award," she says. "I owe a great portion of my success to my professors at Rider who believed in me and pushed me to take risks and operate outside my comfort zone. My career has taken numerous turns, but Rider gave me the knowledge and skill needed to take on all challenges that I encounter throughout my journey."