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Rider receives $1 million to establish an endowed scholarship supporting underrepresented students

First-generation-to-college African American, black and Latino students will benefit
By
Diane Cornell
03/13/2019

On March 12, Rider University announced a $1 million gift to the University to establish a need-based scholarship for African American, black and Latino students who are the first generation in their families to attend college.

Recognizing that national college completion rates vary widely along racial and ethnic lines, the Joan C. Mazzotti and Michael C. Kelly Endowed Scholarship will support the college aspirations of African American, black and Latino students attending the University.

Joan Mazzotti ’72 and Michael Kelly, residents of Haverford, Pa., say they hope their scholarship helps to relieve some of the financial pressures of college for its recipients, thereby helping to close the gap in access to higher education.

“I graduated from Rider in 1972 with a degree in political science,” Mazzotti says. “I attended Rider at a time when there was significant unrest on college campuses and throughout the country. The four years I spent at Rider shaped the values that have guided me throughout my life.”

Mazzotti became even more committed to themes of economic inequality and access to higher education when, in 2000, she became the executive director of Philadelphia Futures, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income, first generation to college students to achieve postsecondary success.

“In large part, the mission of Philadelphia Futures became our family’s mission,” says Mazzotti. “My experience there profoundly impacted my family and, in many ways, defines who we are.”

“For more than 17 years we have celebrated the college graduations of hundreds of Philadelphia Futures students and watched with pride as they entered graduate school, began careers and took their rightful place in the world,” says Kelly, Mazzotti’s husband and a retired attorney. “Access to a college education can make a profound difference in a young person’s life and in their family’s life. It truly has the potential to change the fabric of a community.”

The establishment of the scholarship was announced during a professional development event for Rider students that focused on transitioning from college to graduate school and careers. In attendance were 50 juniors and seniors participating in Rider’s state-funded Educational Opportunity Program and two federally funded campus TRIO programs: the Student Support Service Program and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. These programs help students overcome social, academic and cultural barriers to complete their undergraduate studies. In addition, Rider alumni — many of whom participated in these same programs — attended to share their experiences and help students plan for the future.

“First-generation students often have to work more and borrow more than their peers, and this can impact their ability to complete their degrees,” says Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo. “Currently, the University has more than 1,000 first-generation students pursuing degrees, and their numbers continue to grow each year. This scholarship will help ensure that a Rider education remains accessible and inclusive to all. We are grateful to Joan and Michael for their continued generosity and the unwavering support they have shown to the students at Rider."

Endowed scholarships benefit Rider students in perpetuity. Students awarded the scholarship may renew it for up to a total of five academic years.

“We deeply appreciate that a diverse student body enriches the entire college community,” Mazzotti says. “We are confident that Rider, with its long and successful history of serving first-generation college students, will ensure that it is a community that respects, values and appreciates the many differences in their midst, and fosters and supports the success of all students.”

Mazzotti is currently a member of Rider University’s Board of Trustees and was on the Board previously from 1996 to 2005, serving as its first female chair from 1998 to 2002.  She and Kelly have been among the University’s most loyal and active supporters. In 2006, they established The Mazzotti Awards in Women’s Leadership, an annual award to promote leadership development among female faculty and staff. To date, the couple has contributed $300,000 to fund the Awards.

Mazzotti also played a pivotal role in leading the 2018 Rider Women’s Giving Challenge, which exceeded its goal, raising more than $780,000 to support scholarship opportunities, study abroad programs, student-faculty research projects, multicultural programming and career services initiatives.

In 2014 Mazzotti was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Rider for her work in promoting educational equity.

Several multimillion-dollar gifts have bolstered Rider’s recent fundraising efforts, supporting student scholarships and campus improvements. In 2018-19, the University raised a record amount of funds and remains committed to setting a new record in 2019-20.