‘Unsung Hero’ honored after 28 years

by Amber Cox

Students as well as current and retired faculty members gathered on Thursday to wish a happy retirement to the associate director of residence life.

Stephanie Polak is looking forward to her retirement after serving the Rider community for 28 years. She began working for Rider in January of 1981.

“It’s amazing how fast 28 years can go by,” she said.

Polak may get a part-time job after she settles into retirement, but said she is not looking for one right now.

“I’m thrilled,” Polak said. “I’m going to do absolutely nothing. It’s more [about] what I’m not going to do. My husband and I are going to do some home improvement projects and maybe take some trips.”

Polak said she is not going to miss driving on Route 295 in rush-hour traffic and all of the computer problems she has had to handle.

Polak is an undergraduate of Rider, class of 1976. She later attended Indiana University for her master’s degree.

Polak met her husband, Steve, also a former student and the school’s swim team captain, at the Rider Pub. There is a memorandum of their relationship in Hill Hall, Apartment A. They inscribed their names on wood in the room’s bedroom closet.

Polak and her husband have two children. Her family was present at the luncheon except her son, who could not make it.

Speakers at the luncheon had nothing but praise for Polak. She was even described as being the “backbone of residence life.”

Cindy Threatt, director of residence life, said she owes a “debt of gratitude” to Polak. Polak was Threatt’s mentor and role model when she joined the Rider faculty.

“She took me under her wing,” Threatt said. “We have been daily dining lunch buddies since then.”

Threatt described Polak as the go-to girl. If anyone ever had questions, they were sent to her.

“Stephanie is the person that will know the answers,” Threatt said.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell is saddened about Polak’s retirement. He described her as someone who enriches Rider.

“If I had to characterize her, I would say that she cares,” Campbell said. “Her caring makes everyone better.”

Campbell added that everyone “will miss the energy she brings to Rider each morning.”

Jan Ferrick, area director, said that Rider will not be the same without Polak. Ferrick made a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted many wonderful stories about Polak’s career.

“When we offered her the job, I gave her about 30 seconds to answer me,” Ferrick said. “She has never let me down.”

There was a guest-book to sign, where attendants could write special notes to Polak. The pages are going to be placed in a memory book that was presented to Polak.

Attendees at the luncheon were asked to pay $20 for the food and the presents that Polak was given. Presents included the memory book and a Visa gift card, among other things.

Polak won the Unsung Hero Award, which will now be presented to a resident advisor every year and has been renamed, in her honor, The Stephanie Polak Unsung Hero Award.

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