Rider undergraduate Andre Thomas was recognized as the University’s first cadet in the newly reinstalled Army ROTC program.

Rider undergraduate Andre Thomas was recognized as the University’s first cadet in the newly reinstalled Army ROTC program.

Veterans Day provided a fitting backdrop to the official reflagging ceremony of the Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Program at Rider University on Wednesday, November 11. Rider undergraduate Andre Thomas was recognized as the University’s first cadet in the newly reinstalled program, in which Rider participates with Princeton University and The College of New Jersey. The Veterans Day celebration, held in the Student Recreation Center atrium, was presented by the new Rider University Veterans Association (RUVA) and the Princeton Army ROTC. The event also marked the public inauguration of the RUVA.

Thomas, a Fine Arts major from Staten Island, N.Y., performed an a cappella rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner to open the program, is a U.S. Army enlistee who participates in his ROTC drills on the Princeton University Campus. The versatile sophomore also appears this month in the Westminster College of the Arts’ production of Rent.

Keyon Bonner, president of the RUVA, said that both the RUVA and the reflagged ROTC at Rider are vital in order to recognize the contributions of military service men and women.

“Many miles away, in the hills of Afghanistan and the streets of Iraq, there are many men and women placing their country before all else,” said Bonner, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995, served until injured on active duty, and is now pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Finance. “Beginning from the time when a number of Civil War veterans comprised Rider’s inaugural class, we are comforted by the fact that veterans have a place to go upon coming home.”

Dr. Donald A. Steven, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, spoke of the personal and professional significant of Veterans Day to him.

“As the father of a soldier serving his country in the 3rd Infantry Division, I’m proud that Rider University is part of the Yellow Ribbon program,” said Steven, who is no stranger to military culture on campus, having previously been the provost and dean of the college, as well as a professor in the School of Education, at The Citadel in South Carolina.

“Currently, 45 veterans have enrolled at Rider on the G.I. Bill since the fall, and we anticipate even more next spring. The Rider University Veterans Association, which was just recognized as an official student organization, will supply ongoing support to growing group of veteran students.”

The RUVA is open to all members of the University community, whether or not they served in one of the United States’ five armed services, who share an interest in veterans’ issues.

Helping veterans of combat adapt to campus life is the organization’s top priority, Bonner said prior to the Veterans Day event.

“Our mission is to assist student-veterans in their transition to student life in every way we legitimately can,” Bonner explained. “RUVA’s activities will be a combination of socializing and networking opportunities, as well as helping vets connect with available support services that they might not locate so easily on their own.  We also plan to sponsor events that spotlight the contributions service men and women are making.”

Col. Roberta Niedt ’84, M.A. ’99, Director G1 in the New Jersey National Guard, said the reactivation of Rider’s formerly dormant ROTC program and the establishment of the RUVA are significant. “The commissioned soldiers of today are the veterans of tomorrow,” said Niedt, who received her commission as a 2nd Lieutenant through the ROTC as a Rider undergraduate in 1983. “As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rider while I was a product of Rider ROTC, I attribute my success to the values instilled in me by ROTC. It was the beginning of what would become a lifelong commitment.

“In an era of persistent conflict, the role played by ROTC is bigger than ever,” Niedt continued. “Sixty percent of the leaders in the Army and National Guard are commissioned through the Army ROTC program. They have received the best of both worlds – a high-quality education and the discipline of the United States Army.”

Gary Brosvic, professor of Psychology; Jim Castagnera, associate provost and associate counsel for Academic Affairs; and Shawn Kildea, assistant professor of Communication, will serve as RUVA’s first faculty advisers. Residence Life administrator and adviser Greg Hanf and Karen Crowell, assistant dean of CCS, are also among the organization’s founders.