Three distinguished Rider University graduates were honored at the Alumni Awards presentation on June 14 inside the Mercer Room. These awards are presented annually as part of the Reunion Weekend festivities on the Lawrenceville campus.
Sean Ramsden

From left to right, Alan Sumutka '72, Diane Turton '69 and Lance Elder '70, recipients of the 2011 the Alumni Awards.

Three distinguished Rider University graduates were fêted for their philanthropy, generosity and leadership, both on campus and in their greater communities, at the Alumni Awards presentation on June 14 inside the Mercer Room. The Alumni Awards are presented annually as part of the Reunion Weekend festivities on the Lawrenceville campus.

Alan Sumutka ’72 received the Gordon E. Prichard Award for Volunteer Service, Diane Turton ’69 was presented the Rider University Distinguished Alumna Award for exceptional professional achievements, and Lance Elder ’70 was given the Harold L. Conover Leadership Award.

Explaining the significance of the awards, Rider President Mordechai Rozanski said that all of the honorees “have offered Rider service, generosity and philanthropy.

“Rider University and its alumni are inextricably bound,” Rozanski explained. “The success of our alumni brings luster to our University, and the greater Rider’s prominence, the greater our alumni’s pride in their alma mater.”

Alan Sumutka, an associate professor of Accounting who has taught at his alma mater for more than 30 years, was honored for his generous volunteer service in and around the Rider community. Through his direction of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Sumutka helped seniors and other local residents complete and file their income tax returns, while providing Rider Accounting students with practical, hands-on experience that prepares them for them for their careers. He has also been acknowledged as one of Rider’s best student advisers, routinely going above and beyond the call of duty.

A long-standing and loyal fan of the Rider Broncs, Sumutka also served as a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame Committee and the Rider Baseball Field Development committee, and continues to be an ardent supporter of Athletics as a season ticket holder for men’s basketball, and as a frequent attendee of wrestling, baseball, and swimming and diving.

“Returning here as a faculty member was a very easy decision,” Sumutka said of Rider. “We have such bright students and my colleagues are so intellectually gifted, that volunteering my time to this community is a pleasure. The thing about volunteering is that volunteers just need to know that what they do is useful, and that it’s appreciated. At Rider, that is always the case.”

Diane Turton, who can certainly lay claim to the title of the preeminent Realtor in the Monmouth and Ocean county markets along the Jersey Shore, was the recipient of the Rider University Distinguished Alumna Award for exceptional professional achievements.

Turton’s hard work, vision, diligence and perseverance have earned her much success from a humble start. She worked out of her car at Point Pleasant Beach Realty in Mantoloking before moving to Weidel Realty in Hamilton Square and Crossroads Realty. By 1986, she was able to open her own agency with an office in Bay Head, and today, Diane Turton, Realtors, is a full-service real estate company with 14 sales offices throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties, and a Corporate Centre in Point Pleasant Beach. The company is consistently voted Best Real Estate Agency in Ocean County and One of the Best Real Estate Agencies in Monmouth County by the annual Asbury Park Press Reader’s Choice awards.

Named among the Enterprising Women of the Year Award by Enterprising Women Magazine, Turton was also one of nine national recipients of the Office Depot 2006 Businesswoman of the Year Award, and was recognized as one of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business by NJBiz.

“When I first started at Rider, I was majoring in Psychology, which you really do need in real estate,” said Turton, who later earned a teaching certificate and worked with grade-schoolers. However, she said her success in real estate can be attributed more to hustle and networking. “Still, I needed to get my name out there more, so I’d host Tupperware, Mary Kay and candle parties in my house, all in different rooms, at the same time.”

Lance Elder, the president and CEO of the Education and Assistance Corporation, received the Harold L. Conover Leadership Award, bestowed annually upon a Rider graduate who has distinguished him or herself in the field of service. The award is named for Conover, a member of Rider’s Class of 1923 who was the prime mover in establishing the Alumni Association and became the association’s first president.

With the Education and Assistance Corporation, which is ranked among the largest social services agencies in the New York City metropolitan area, Elder’s leadership assists more than 45,000 people with educational, vocational, and counseling services, mediation and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent offenders, their children, families and senior citizens. The programs are administered through 72 locations on Long Island and in the five boroughs of New York City.

Prior to joining EAC, Elder served as general manager of the Nassau Coliseum, where he was responsible for the overall daily operations of the 18,000-seat multi-purpose sports arena, its 60,000-square-foot exhibition hall, and 7,000-car parking lot. He has also been an adjunct professor at St. John’s University since 1981, where he recently received the Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship Award.

“This makes me reflect back to the many things I learned at this university. I was a horrible student, to be honest, but while I was doing that, I still learned many things that I use today,” Elder said after being honored, noting that an education can come from anywhere on campus.

“I was the student manager of this very dining hall,” he continued, gesturing toward Daly Dining Hall, which houses the Mercer Room. “I had 150 employees working for me, and a great general manager who taught me, as a 20-year-old, how to manage people three times older than me, and I’ve been able to apply those management skills often along my way.”