From its very beginning, Rider University has been an institution responsive to the needs of those who have proudly served in the United States military. When it first opened its doors in 1865, the institution’s initial class of students was composed primarily of veterans returning home from the Civil War. Today, Rider is an active participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows men and women returning to civilian life from service in America’s current wars the opportunity to attend class through enhanced tuition benefits and supplemental scholarships and grants provided by participating colleges and universities.

Now, with approximately 50 Rider students attending the University aided by veterans’ benefits, and anticipating an increase in ex-military matriculants, a group of some 20 Rider faculty, staff members and students have formed the Rider University Veterans Association (RUVA). 

The RUVA, whose application for recognition currently pending with the Student Government Association, intends to be open to all members of the University community, whether or not they served in one of the United States’ five armed services, who share an interest in veterans’ issues.

“Today, one in 12 Americans is a veteran, and given the increasing use of the Yellow Ribbon Program to support the education of those who have served since September 11, the number of veterans joining the Rider community will continue to increase,” said Michael Rosati, a College of Continuing Studies student and veteran of seven years of active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard. “Most of the Rider community is related to or knows a veteran – a parent, brother or sister, relative, neighbor or classmate.”

Helping veterans of combat adapt to campus life is the organization’s top priority, says the organization’s first president, student Keyon Bonner. “Our mission is to assist student-veterans in their transition to student life in every way we legitimately can,” Bonner explained. “RUVA’s activities will be a combination of socializing and networking opportunities, as well as helping vets connect with available support services that they might not locate so easily on their own.  We also plan to sponsor events that spotlight the contributions service men and women are making.”

RUVA’s first such event will be a ceremony honoring Rider student Andre Thomas, a cadet in the Princeton/College of New Jersey/Rider Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), headquartered on the Princeton University campus, on Wednesday, November 11, from noon to 12:30 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center. The event will include brief remarks by Lt. Col. John R. Stark, Ph.D., commanding officer of the ROTC unit, and Donald Steven, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. The Rider community is invited to attend the Veterans Day ceremony, where light refreshments will be served.

Gary Brosvic, professor of Psychology; Jim Castagnera, associate provost and associate counsel for Academic Affairs; and Shawn Kildea, assistant professor of Communication, will serve as RUVA’s first faculty advisers. Residence Life administrator and adviser Greg Hanf and Karen Crowell, assistant dean of CCS, are also among the organization’s founders.