Influential Rider alumnus dies after becoming critically ill with COVID-19
Tony Whalen ’97, an influential Rider alumnus, died on March 25 after becoming critically ill with coronavirus. Whalen is the first known member of the Rider community to die as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. He was 45.
Whalen was a founding member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity on Rider’s campus and a former president of the Student Government Association. He led the fundraising efforts that culminated in the construction of a gazebo on Centennial Lake.
“He was an outstanding student leader and special person — always helping others, always laughing,” says Director of Business and Technology Innovation Jan Friedman-Krupnick, who worked with Whalen directly when he was a student. “He cared about making Rider a better place, and he did."
Whalen was a resident of Bridgewater, N.J., and the director of client engagement services at Sanofi, a multinational pharmaceutical company he worked for in various roles since 2003.
He is survived by his wife, Laura, and two children.
A fundraiser for the Whalen family was started on March 24 on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe. An initial goal was set for $50,000. After Whalen's death, the goal was adjusted to $150,000. As of March 30, the fundraiser had exceeded its goal, with more than $152,000 pledged by more than 2,200 people to support the Whalen family.
Tributes have been pouring in elsewhere as news spreads of Whalen’s passing.
Like Whalen, Levi Wilson '99 was a founding member of Rider's chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He met Whalen as a student and later worked with him at Sanofi. Wilson recalls how Whalen’s popularity among the student body was replicated among his coworkers.
"At Rider, even those who never knew him, they knew who he was,” Wilson says. “People looked up to him and admired him. At work, he was like the mayor. He knew everyone. He was always listening to people's concerns, and he always knew who to put you in touch with. Tony was very personable. It was never a bother for him to stop and answer questions, and he always did it with a smile.”
As a Rider student, Tracy Drye '99 was on the Student Government Association Executive Board when Whalen was president. She says he inspired her to later become president of the organization.
On Facebook, she wrote, "I know (Tony) would want us all to find our way to be part of the solution in all that is happening today and to do so with a smile…Whatever you decide to do, do it, do it now and do it for Tony, who would have done anything for those he knew."
At Rider, Whalen double-majored in political science and Spanish. He was a member of several honor societies and participated in the Student Entertainment Council and the University’s Model UN team. He remained actively involved with the University after graduating and was last on campus in November for Homecoming/Family Weekend.
No information about memorial services was immediately available. Contributions to the Whalen family can be made by visiting gofundme.com.