Honorary degrees were conferred upon alumni Joan C. Mazzotti ’72 and Howard B. Stoeckel ’67
Aimee LaBrie

The class of 2014 is the largest graduating class ever in Rider’s history.

On Friday, May 16, 2014 attendees of the 149th Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony witnessed history as President Mordechai Rozanski conferred 963 baccalaureate degrees to students who had successfully completed their studies the previous week, making the Class of 2014 the largest graduating class ever in Rider’s history. Friday’s graduates join the 425 students who received their diplomas the night before at the 149th Graduate and College of Continuing Studies Commencement, and the 120 who received theirs at the 85th Westminster Choir College Commencement on Saturday, May 17. The students processed led by retiring faculty member and noted scholar, Dr. Barry Seldes, professor of political science, who served in the role as Grand Marshal. 

Rozanski congratulated the graduates, who made up part of Rider’s total graduating class of 1,390 undergraduates and now join a robust and active family of alumni.

“And as you leave us and embark on the next stage of your life, do so with great pride because you are joining a distinguished family of more than 50,000 alumni of Rider University. These alumni are accomplished men and women who have made and continue to make meaningful contributions worldwide,” said Rozanski, the University’s president since 2003. “I have no doubt that you too will achieve significant success and bring great credit to yourselves, your families and your alma mater.”

Rider University also proudly bestowed the honorary doctoral level degrees upon two well-deserving alumni. Both honorees proferred inspiring remarks at the Thursday and Friday commencement ceremonies.

Joan C. Mazzotti ’72 was given the doctor of humane letters. Mazzotti has served as chief legal counsel for Aramark since 2000, and has also been an active supporter of her alma mater, serving as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for four years, and a member of the Board between 1996 and 2005. Along with her husband, Michael Kelly, she established the Mazzotti Awards in Women’s Leadership to provide leadership development opportunities for Rider’s women faculty and staff. Over the last eight years, 19 Mazzotti award recipients have benefited from this award that also helps to advance them professionally. 

Upon receiving her award, Mazzotti urged students to consider giving back. “Whether you choose to work for a non-profit organization, as an educator or in a caring profession, or simply make yourself available to your family, friends and co-workers when they need you, there will be nothing more personally rewarding than being of service to others.”

Howard B. Stoeckel ’67 received the Doctor of Laws degree. Under his leadership as CEO of Wawa, the company grew into one of the most successful convenience store chains in the country. Stoeckel is also a member of the Board of Trustees, and served as the Chair from 2008 to 2012. He continues his connection to Rider by advising current students at the Center for the Development of Leadership Skills in the College of Business Administration.

Stoeckel had several key pieces of advice for graduating seniors, but his final message to them mixed pop culture references with encouragement. “It seems like just yesterday I was sitting right where you are now. Believe me, time flies. As the famous philosopher Ferris Bueller once said. ‘Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.’” With that, Stoeckel reminded them that, “Success isn’t all work. The best parts are really fun. I’ve had my biggest laughs, brightest moments, and met some of my best friends at work. Do it right and you will really enjoy the ride."

Presiding at her first Rider University Commencement, Provost DonnaJean Fredeen announced the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Awards. Diane Campbell, associate professor-librarian at Moore Library and Dr. Amanda Quist, associate professor of conducting, were selected by the University Honors Council from nominations submitted by Rider students, faculty and academic administration for the annual honor.

The 2014 Class Gift was presented by senior class co-presidents, Lorelei Colbert ’14 (public relations major) and Adam Grossman ’14 (business economics). Colbert congratulated her classmates on their generosity. “This gift from members of our class represents the legacy we are leaving for current and future undergraduate students. It is also a tribute to our commitment to continuing the long standing tradition of investing in the future of our alma mater, while also leaving a distinctive mark on Rider’s history by establishing and contributing to The Rider Senior Class Scholarship, Honoring the Class of 2014.”

Commencement speaker Michael Musso '14, a history major, also spoke of the future to his fellow classmates, using the analogy of a VCR to explain how life can be a combination of the buttons on this now seemingly outdated device. He urged students to both rewind the past and hit pause when needed, ending with these final words of advice. “I commence the next part of my life, one that includes having spoken in front of thousands of people and having graduated from an institution that I can be proud of, among colleagues and professors who have done more for me than I could have ever imagined, and ready to hit ‘play’ on my future.”

Fun Facts:

  • Nearly half of Rider students took part in internships, co-ops or student teaching during their time here.
  • Students hail from 18 different states and 31 different countries.
  • Eight percent of graduates competed for Rider as student-athletes.
  • Cranberry Cavalry, a new philanthropic program for students and alumni, launched this fall. Parents and students who gave over $18.65 (1865 being the year the Rider was founded) received a special Rider lapel pin to wear at Commencement.
  • Seven percent of students studied abroad during their time at Rider.
  • 50 percent are graduating with academic honors.

A Green Graduation

For the fifth 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 2014 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., which produces GreenWeaver, estimates that over half a million 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.

Congratulations to all members of the Class of 2014 for years of hard work, dedication and commitment to your studies.