Honorary degree recipients announced for Rider's three commencement ceremonies

Neil Friedman, Judith Brodsky and Alan Gilbert will all be honored

During its spring commencement ceremonies on the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses, Rider University will proudly bestow honorary degrees upon three noteworthy recipients. Neil Friedman, who has reached the highest levels in numerous national toy companies, will receive the honorary doctor of laws degree during the Graduate and College of Continuing Studies Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, May 12. On Friday, May 13, world-renowned artist and educator Judith Brodsky will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree during the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony. On Saturday, May 14, noted and award-winning conductor Alan Gilbert will receive the honorary doctor of music award during the 87th Westminster Choir College Commencement Ceremony on the Princeton campus. Gilbert will also be the deliver the commencement address at the ceremony. 

After attending Rider, Neil Friedman went on to achieve phenomenal professional success. As the current chief executive officer and president of Alex Brands since October 2014, Friedman also served as the president and executive vice president of Toys "R" Us Inc. among other high-level executive posts at Mattel, Fisher-Price Brands of Mattel, Tyco, Just Toys and Hasbro. 

In addition, Friedman helped to launch a number of top-selling toys, including extensions of the "Tickle Me Elmo" line and other products tied to the Sesame Street license. He also led his team at Mattel in revitalizing the Barbie brand, among many other noteworthy accomplishments. 

His leadership abilities extend beyond the workplace and are recognized throughout the industry. Friedman was named to the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2004 and was inducted into the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association’s Hall of Fame in 2007. 

He remains dedicated to helping children in need and is an active supporter of many charities as well as serving on the board of directors for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, The Toy Industry Foundation and on Rider's President’s Council. In 2012, he received the inaugural Champion Award from the New York Yankees Foundation for his work with the organization to make an impact in the lives of young New Yorkers. Friedman is a past chairman and current honorary advisor of the Toy Industry Association and a past chairman and lifetime advisor at Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.

On Friday, May 13, Rider University will proudly bestow the honorary doctor of fine arts degree to noted artist, educator and arts advocate Judith Brodsky at the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.

Over her lifetime, Brodsky’s vision, leadership and teaching have had an extraordinary effect on the art world, especially in her home state of New Jersey. In 1986, she founded the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, which has earned an international reputation in the world of contemporary printmaking by cultivating artists and employing master printers and papermakers and state-of-the-art facilities that are equipped to produce work in virtually all print media. It was renamed the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions in 2006 in her honor. More than 300 artists have worked with the Brodsky Center since its founding, and their prints are now included in the collection of major museums throughout the United States and abroad.

Brodsky, one of the founders of the American Feminist Art Movement, has worked at the intersection of art and social change for many decades. A Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of Visual Arts at Rutgers University, Brodsky co-founded the Rutgers University Institute for Women and Art (now called The Rutgers Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities) and the Coalition of Women Artists’ Organizations. She is a former president of the College Art Association, National Women’s Caucus for Art and ArtTable. She has influenced policymaking surrounding art by serving on many organizations' boards, including ArtPride/New Jersey, Jersey City Museum and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

In addition to being a patron of the arts, Brodsky is an artist herself. In her work, she has explored a wide range of subjects and issues, including family, gender and memory. Her drawings, etchings and prints serve as powerful visual responses that document her interpretations of the defining moments of her life and times. More than 100 museums and corporations around the globe hold Brodsky’s work in their permanent collections. Rider proudly displays several of Brodsky's paintings around campus, including in the office of President Gregory G. Dell'Omo, Ph.D.

Brodsky received her bachelor's degree from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and her Master of Fine Arts from Tyler School of Art, Temple University.

Alan Gilbert will be honored with the honorary doctorate of music during the Westminster Choir College commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14. Gilbert began his tenure as the New York Philharmonic music director in September 2009. He simultaneously maintains a major international presence, making regular guest appearances with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Gilbert is Conductor Laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, where he served as music director for eight years, and was the principal guest conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra for more than a decade. He has led operatic productions for the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Zurich Opera, Royal Swedish Opera and Santa Fe Opera, where he served as the first appointed music director.

Gilbert is the director of conducting and orchestral studies at the Juilliard School, where holds the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut to great acclaim in 2008, conducting John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, the DVD of which received a Grammy Award.

In May 2010, Gilbert received an honorary doctor of music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, and, in December 2011, Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for his “exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music.” He was elected to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2014, named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2015, honored with the Foreign Policy Association Medal in 2015 and nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction of the New York Philharmonic’s acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd, broadcast on PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center in 2015. 

Rider’s Graduate and College of Continuing Studies Commencement Ceremony will be held on the Lawrenceville campus on Thursday, May 12, at 5 p.m. The Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will take place on Friday, May 13, at 9:30 a.m. on the Lawrenceville campus. Westminster Choir College’s Commencement Ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 14, at 10:30 a.m. in the Princeton University Chapel.  

Further information about all three Commencement ceremonies can be found at