Basking Ridge, N.J., resident Heather Shankman ’12, who will present this year’s student address at Rider’s Undergraduate Commencement on May 11, did not let a serious heart ailment keep her from her goals.
Amber Cox '10
Heather Shankman ’12 will present this year’s student address at Rider's Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 11.

Heather Shankman ’12 will present this year’s student address at Rider's Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 11.

Heather Shankman ’12 said she felt immediately comfortable the first time she visited Rider for an Open House during her senior year of high school, and she has certainly made the Lawrenceville campus a place to call home the past four years.

“I instantly felt at home,” said Shankman, a resident of Basking Ridge, N.J. “It’s hard to explain the feeling, but the campus was so beautiful and the students were so friendly.”

A General Advertising major with a double minor in Public Relations and Sports Marketing, Shankman will present this year’s student address at the University’s Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 11. Following a number of severe health complications, she is truly thankful to be there at all. Shankman had a near death experience in 2010 and was on life support for many days.

“It’s a miracle I am here today,” said Shankman, who has undergone two heart surgeries in the past year – a fact that did not deter her will to graduate on time.

“Due to my determination, drive and ‘never give up’ attitude, it was my goal to finish college on time,” Shankman said. “In order to accomplish that goal, I took 18 credits during the summer as well as the following semesters, since the incident.”

Shankman has also spent her time at Rider working for Athletics Marketing and Promotions staff, attending all men and women’s basketball games as well as other sporting events during the year to hand out T-shirts and bobblehead dolls, and working on special events, such as Midnight MAACness. She is also part of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity focused on Community Service.

Shankman also managed to launch her own graphics T-shirt business, Shankman Promotions.
“It was actually one of those spur-of-the-moment opportunities that presented itself to me while I was on vacation with my mom,” she explained. “Entrepreneurs and business owners have always fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. As I continued to get older, I witnessed my parents start their own marketing and media company. They have been a huge influence on this endeavor, which has become quite successful.”

Because of her health issues, she had to put the business on hold, but plans to dedicate more time and focus to Shankman Promotions following graduation. Shankman will enjoy a just shortened summer break, “trading in” months of fun in the sun for just a few weeks, as she has accepted a job with a pharmaceutical publishing company.

By delivering the student address at Commencement, Shankman will fulfill a dream she has had since she was a freshman.

“I truly feel honored to be able to have such an opportunity to speak in front of my classmates, peers, friends and family who have stood by us through these past four years,” she said. “I feel as if I can represent the student body very well considering I have shared the same experiences, both positive and negative, during my years at Rider. I have done all-nighters in the 24-hour lounge, I have made those late-night diner runs and have also have my share of unforgettable weekends on campus. I look forward to giving a speech that is relatable to each and every student graduating this year.”