Rider University honors Class of 2019 during Commencement ceremony

Ceremony included a surprise honorary degree announcement
Adam Grybowski

Hundreds of students marked a major milestone on May 18 during Rider University’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony. Students majoring in business, education, performing arts, liberal arts and the sciences turned their tassels on Saturday while surrounded by thousands of friends and family members at CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton, N.J.

“Graduates, I have no doubt that you will achieve significant success and bring credit to yourselves, your families and your alma mater,” said President Gregory G. Dell’Omo in his opening remarks. "For this is the greatest gift you can give back to Rider University."

Entrepreneur Barry Bierenbaum ’76 was this year's undergraduate Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient. His wife, Gail Bierenbaum, was also surprised with an honorary degree. The Bierenbaums are the founders of Mountain Express Oil, a corporation based in Acworth, Ga., involved in the wholesale distribution of gasoline, fuels, oils and lubricants, in addition to real estate, food service and convenience stores operating in the Southeast.

"We always have very smart strategists, but the hard part is implementation and focusing on results," said Barry, who received from Rider a Bachelor of Science in Commerce with a major in marketing prior to starting his career. "Results are what matters. There's nothing in life that happens that's easy. But whether the news is good or the news is bad, if you know what's wrong and have the resources, you can fix it."

The Class of 2019 continues the University’s long tradition of coupling educational opportunities with strong student outcomes. A full 50 percent of graduates participated in an internship or co-op or were student teachers. Ninety-eight of them competed as part of Rider’s Division I athletic programs, and 25 of them took advantage of Rider’s study abroad programs to travel the world.

Students of the Class of 2019 hailed from 18 states and 30 countries. Almost one of every 10 students (or 9 percent of all students) was born outside of the United States. Their home countries included Morocco, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Ghana and Guyana, among others. Those born in the U.S. chose Rider from hometowns in California, Indiana, Kansas and Texas, among others.

Females have dominated graduating classes in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, and Rider has followed that trend since about that time. By gender, females represented the majority of the Class of 2019, making up 57 percent of all undergraduates — about the same as last year, when 58 percent of the Class of 2018 was composed of females.

Accounting major and Senior Class Vice President Stephanie Turner delivered the student speech

“Our degrees will forever be an example of the community, inclusion and engagement that Rider has instilled in us,” Turner said. "Because of Rider and the people we have become here, I am confident that soon we will live in a world far better than the one we have today."

Dr. Danielle Jacobs, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physics and the director of STEM Scholars, and Dr. Kathleen Pierce, a professor in the Department of Graduate Education, Leadership, and Counseling, both received a Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of their dedication to students. Dr. Heather Casey, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education, received the Dominick A. Iorio Research Award.

For the third year in a row, a graduating Rider student won a brand new car as part of 107.7 The Bronc's Cruisin' From Commencement Contest. Steven DiGiuseppe '19, a corporate finance major from Scotch Plains, N.J., turned the winning key for a brand new 2019 Toyota Camry LE, courtesy of Team Toyota of Princeton, which also provides the winning student with free, two-year access to ToyotaCare, a scheduled maintenance plan that includes free oil changes, tire rotations and more.

The contest asked students to create a two-minute video reflecting on their Rider experience. A panel of judges narrowed the field of entries to the 10 best submissions. Each of the finalists received a key that would potentially start the car following the Commencement ceremony — but only one did.