Founder's Day speaker Dr. Michael G. Curran encouraged scholars to be passionate.
Sean Ramsden

Encouraging the University’s 57 new Andrew J. Rider Scholars to be passionate about their choices in life and their work, Dr. Michael G. Curran also urged them to always savor the moments along the way – from joyful celebrations to the more protracted task of easing the trail of those who will follow in their steps, at Rider and beyond.

“I wish for you the passion and empathy to prepare paths and build bridges for others coming behind you,” said Curran, a professor of Teacher Education who was selected to present the faculty address at the annual Founders Day Program on Saturday, November 6.

The event, part of Rider’s Family Weekend 2010 festivities, recognizes the top one percent of seniors, juniors and sophomores, by grade point average, as Andrew J. Rider Scholars. Students from each of Rider’s six academic colleges and schools – the College of Business Administration, the School of Education, the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Continuing Studies, Westminster Choir College, and the School of Fine and Performing Arts – were chosen for the distinction, which honors the first president of the institution.

President Mordechai Rozanski awarded certificates to the new class of Rider Scholars, which included 13 repeat honorees, during the ceremony, held in the Student Recreation Center. He reminded them that they represent more than 4,800 eligible undergraduates, calling them an important, select and versatile group.

“It’s an outstanding achievement, worthy of our honor and appreciated,” Rozanski said.

Curran, the 2009 recipient of the Rider University Distinguished Teaching Award, joined the faculty in 1991. In his address, Curran showed the same ability to relate to his audience that has earned him consistent plaudits from his graduate and undergraduate students.

He made reference to the collection of historical artifacts from the Trenton Business College available for viewing in the Moore Library, and then drew a line from the business school that offered courses in shorthand, bookkeeping and typewriting to the comprehensive university of today. It’s a stark reminder, Curran told students, that each new generation advances on the foundation set previously for them.

“The significance of those collections is that they represent the building blocks on which the University was structured and has thrived,” Curran said. “Some 145 years after we first opened our doors, we find ourselves in this moment able to offer the breadth and depth of your majors and opportunities like none before.”

Curran also urged the importance of effective communication, even in – or particularly because of – the communications revolution in progress today. “The ability to send words, pictures, and videos instantly places us all in real-time electronic contact with anyone who has access to the same technology,” he explained. “At the same time, immediate networking brings with it a demand for caution, civility, and perhaps even kindness.

“Mark Twain wrote in his book Life on the Mississippi, ‘We write frankly and fearlessly, but then we modify before we print,’” Curran continued. “While reflection and editing is still as necessary as it has been to prior generations, today we read countless articles about people writing frankly and fearlessly and then hitting ‘send,’ only to cause distress, embarrassment, regret, and sometimes death. You have an awesome responsibility to handle electronic media with wisdom and finesse.”

Concluding with a note on passion, Curran said students should always keep its spark lit for things great and small.

“I wish for you the passion to get up in the middle of a moonless night to observe planets and constellations. I wish for you the passion of at least another 6,000 sunrises and sunsets, hoping you see them in beautiful locations around the world,” Curran said. “I wish for you the passion of reading the classics on a cold winter’s night when the snow is pelting your window, and the wind is howling. I wish for you the passion of finding peace and solace in music and the arts while discovering who you are and trying to find your way.”

Allie Ward ’11, a Communication and Journalism major, presented the student address, in which she said that the initiative and persistence present among the Andrew J. Rider Scholars was key in achieving the lofty honor.

“The title ‘Andrew J. Rider Scholar’ isn’t just indicative of our abilities as students, but also of our abilities as leaders, as multitaskers and as students who have chosen to make the most of what Rider University has offered us,” said Ward, a Hamilton, N.J., resident who also championed the commuter-student experience in her remarks.

“I immediately got involved with the student newspaper as a freshman, and now I serve as the executive editor of The Rider News — the position I always wanted,” said Ward of her role with the award-winning publication. “My advisor and mentor, Dr. (Tom) Simonet, helped me secure a freelancing job at The Times of Trenton, and this past summer, I interned as the editor of the Lawrence Gazette, a monthly community newspaper in town. With networking, persistence and a little luck, I was able to take every opportunity and use it as a chance to get my foot in the door in the world of journalism.”

Though this ethos serves them well, Ward also petitioned her peers not to lose sight of what is important as they continue on through college and into the workforce.

“This is something former First Lady Barbara Bush discussed about 10 years ago in a commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College,” Ward explained. “She said, ‘At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.’”

Ward also recalled a popular move character to emphasize her point. “Although he may be the polar opposite of what we were in high school, take it from Ferris Bueller,” she said. “‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’”