Wednesday, May 5, 2021
At the time of his death in January, Marsh was enrolled in Rider’s Doctor of Educational Leadership program
by Adam Grybowski
Rider University will posthumously award a doctorate to Eugene Marsh ’13, ’18 during a hooding ceremony on May 8.
Marsh was enrolled in Rider’s Doctor of Educational Leadership program at the time of his death in January and had already completed part of his dissertation. He previously earned a bachelor’s in liberal studies and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling, both from Rider. Marsh’s wife, Elaine, will accept the degree on his behalf, and other members of his family are also expected to attend.
“We are very proud to honor Eugene’s commitment to education and to Rider by recognizing his extraordinary efforts up until his unfortunate and untimely passing,” says Dr. DonnaJean Fredeen, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We continue to feel his loss deeply and hope his legacy will serve as inspiration to others.”
Marsh’s life story and personal charisma earned him admiration far and wide. Following his death, from complications of COVID-19, he received tributes from New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, and the PBS Newshour, in addition to expressions of sympathy and shock from across the Rider community.
Marsh grew up in South Carolina in the 1950s during an era of segregation. He was raised in a foster family, one of 13 children. His mother, who would instill the foundational values Marsh drew upon and inspire his educational dreams, was illiterate.
He was among the first African American students to integrate his all-white high school. After high school, Marsh enlisted in the U.S. Army and served with the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. As a soldier, he earned the Bronze Star for Valor in combat, the U.S. Army Medal and the Vietnam Veteran Medal.
His quest for an education was renewed later in life when he enrolled in Mercer County Community College, where he earned an associate degree in 2010. He then transferred to Rider. Upon finishing his bachelor's program, Marsh was selected as the speaker for Rider’s 2014 Commencement ceremony.
Marsh was passionate about using his education as a means to help other people and was particularly focused on mentoring and counseling veterans and Black people. For his dissertation, he was researching how student-veterans could be better supported in making informed decisions about their major of study and career goals at the outset of their education.
Marsh was part of only the second class of students in Rider's Doctor of Educational Leadership program, which launched in 2017. It is the first post-master’s degree in the school’s history.
Because of the pandemic, Rider is holding multiple small Commencement ceremonies this year, mainly from May 14-16, for both the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020. A hooding ceremony the Doctor of Educational Leadership program will take place on May 8.