Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Sean Ramsden

Graduates and the families shared the joy of earning degrees at Commencement on May 16.

Rider proudly bestowed the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters upon Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, at the University’s graduate and College of Continuing Studies ceremony on Thursday, May 16.

In addition to Pruitt’s honor, Rider President Mordechai Rozanski conferred 404 degrees to students who had successfully completed their studies. Among these are graduate students receiving master’s degrees and undergraduates from Rider’s College of Continuing Studies, who earned their bachelor’s and associate degrees. Among them was the first class of students from the Master of Arts in Applied Psychology program.

Rozanski congratulated the evening’s graduates, who made up part of Rider’s total graduating class of 1,456 and now join an alumni family of more than 55,000.

“This is an honor to be greatly cherished because it signifies an important academic and personal accomplishment,” said Rozanski, the University’s president since 2003. “And in awarding you your degree, we share with you that sense of mastery, pride and joy that comes with reaching a hard-earned goal. And for some of you, this required determination and an indomitable spirit to help conquer many challenges.”

Carolynne Lewis-Arévalo ’13 of Lawrence Township, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, presented the student address. Lewis-Arévalo, who dropped out of high school in 1978, was a victim of child abuse at home and later, battery at the hands of her husband during an ill-fated marriage. She unexpectedly found confidence though education when she enrolled at Mercer County Community College in 2005, and graduated summa cum laude from Rider.

“Whereas I previously felt inadequate and afraid to approach others to share my ideas, my education has given me entrée into a community of scholars – enabling me to view others as peers and to offer my ideas without fear of rejection,” Lewis-Arévalo said. “I hope that as I continue my graduate studies, and eventually, begin a counseling career, that my story will encourage others to believe in themselves, and to believe that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”

Pruitt has led Thomas Edison State College, New Jersey’s only college exclusively for adults, since 1982. During his tenure, TESC continued to serve as a national leader in the assessment of adult and experiential learning and in using technology to deliver innovative higher education programs to adults where they live or work.

In his remarks, Pruitt acknowledged the often daunting challenges undertaken by the graduates, many of whom balanced full-time work with evening classes to earn their degrees.

“Your journey has been very difficult. But you came here because you wanted to invest in yourself. You wanted an education,” Pruitt said. “You leave here with diplomas from a very distinguished institution, so you should be proud of what you walk away with.”

During the ceremony, retiring Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Steven announced the recipients of the 2013 Distinguished Teaching awards. Dr. Eugene Kutcher, professor of Management and Human Resources and Dr. Vanita Neelakanta, professor of English, were selected by the University Honors Council from nominations submitted by Rider students, faculty, and academic administration for the annual honor.

Steven also introduced the winner of the inaugural Chairperson Leadership Award, Dr. Margaret O’Reilly-Allen, chair of the Department of Accounting.   

Fun Facts:

  • This year’s graduates hail from 23 states and 14 nations.
  • 6 percent of graduates competed for Rider as student-athletes.
  • For the first time, Rider will award the master’s degree in Applied Psychology.
  • Rider’s School of Education is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
  • Identical twins Cherisse Williams ’13 and Cherissia Williams ’13 will become the first set of identical twins to graduate from Westminster Choir College.

A Green Graduation

For the fourth year in a row, Rider and Westminster Choir College are using GreenWeaver caps and gowns, made from 100 percent, post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, to robe all students for Commencement 2013 exercises. Eco-friendly GreenWeaver gowns are made of fabric spun from molten plastic pellets, producing a comfortably soft fabric that literally turns trash into keepsakes. Each gown represents about 23 bottles.

Oak Hall Cap & Gown of Salem, Va., estimates that approximately 521,000 graduating students will wear GreenWeaver caps and gowns this year, and that the company has diverted about 12 million plastic bottles from landfills.

Rider is one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada, according to The Princeton Review. The renowned education services company selected Rider for inclusion in the newly released, fourth annual edition of its free downloadable book, The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition, which was released in April.