A knowing sun seemed to smile on the futures of 1,347 new graduates of Rider University and Westminster Choir College over three days of Commencement ceremonies on May 10, 11 and 12.
Sean Ramsden
The atmosphere of celebration among graduates, family and friends sparkled at Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 11.

The atmosphere of celebration among graduates, family and friends sparkled at Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 11.

Highlighted by inspiring tales of perseverance, Rider University introduced its newest graduating class at its 147th Commencement exercises on Thursday, May 10, and Friday, May 11, on the Lawrenceville campus. The 410 graduate and College of Continuing Studies students who earned degrees on Thursday, as well as Friday’s 806 baccalaureate recipients, were joined by 76 undergraduates and 55 graduates who earned degrees at Westminster Choir College’s 83rd Commencement activities on Saturday, May 12, at the Princeton University Chapel.

A total of 1,347 degrees were conferred over three days to students who now join an alumni family more than 50,000.

“In awarding you your degree, we share with you that sense of mastery, pride and joy that comes with reaching a hard-earned goal,” President Mordechai Rozanski told graduates on Thursday night. “Not only have you made it today, but I’m confident that you can look forward to more success in the future. The knowledge and skills you have attained at Rider, and particularly, the skill of continuous learning, are lifetime assets that will help you better manage both the opportunities and challenges you will encounter.”

Michael Rosati ’10, M.B.A. ’12, who earned his Master of Business Administration, presented the student address on May 10. Rosati, once an uninspired student at Hamilton (N.J.) High School West, served seven years in the U.S. Coast Guard before enrolling at Rider to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while also competing for the Broncs’ wrestling program.

“Perhaps one of the most influential things I have learned was five years ago on the wrestling mat. It was to ‘always move forward, don’t stop moving forward,’” said Rosati, was the student recipient of the inaugural Rider Way Award this spring. “As time went on, I began to understand that this simple wrestling tactic also applied to academics.”

Heather Shankman ’12 of Basking Ridge, N.J., an Advertising major with a double minor in Public Relations and Sports Marketing who nearly died from a heart ailment in late 2010, presented the student address. “I can assure everyone here today that if I can get through all of this, you can do anything you set your mind to,” Shankman told her classmates. 

Honorary degrees were conferred upon Maureen Maguire ’75, Ph.D., the Carolyn F. Jones Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Aaron Gast, Ph.D., trustee emeritus on the Board of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation of Princeton, at the University’s Lawrenceville campus ceremonies.

Maguire joined the Penn faculty in July 1994 to establish the Center for Preventive Ophthalmology and Biostatistics. Since then, she has held leadership positions in several multicenter clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration sponsored by industry and the National Institutes of Health.

As a student at Rider, Maguire was an Andrew J. Rider Scholar and led the Math Club. She graduated summa cum laude as Mathematics major and was chosen as the valedictorian of the Class of 1975. 

Gast recently retired after more than 32 years of service to the Charlotte W. Newcombe. Since its inception in 1979 through the end of the 2011 academic year, the Newcombe Foundation has provided more than $17 million in grants for mature women students at 58 colleges and universities in the United States. In 1981, Rider became the first school in the United States to receive funds from the Newcombe Foundation, and since then, it has received more than $1.2 million in scholarship support.

In December 2011, on the occasion of Gast’s retirement from the Newcombe Board, the Foundation made a major gift to Westminster’s proposed new academic building in support of that project. Gast’s wife, Mickey Gast, a Westminster alumna and member of Rider’s Board of Trustees, is co-chair of the Westminster Campaign Committee.

On Saturday, Westminster Choir College of Rider University awarded the honorary Doctor of Music to American conductor Morten Lauridsen, D.M.A., a Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

In 2006, Lauridsen was named an American Choral Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. The following year, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest artistic award in the United States, by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony in recognition of “his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power, and spiritual depth.”

In addition to the conferral of degrees, the Rider University Awards for Distinguished Teaching, selected annually by the University Honors Council from nominations submitted by Rider students, faculty and academic administration, were presented to Dr. Tracey Garrett, associate professor of Teacher Education, and Dr. James Goldsworthy, associate professor of Piano at Westminster Choir College. Dr. James M. Jordan, professor of Conducting at Westminster, was presented the 16th annual Dominick A. Iorio Research Award, recognizing the outstanding research and scholarship of senior faculty on both campuses.