By Shanna O’Mara
After 17 years of dedicated service to Rider and the students who call the university home, Dean of Students Anthony Campbell descended the stairs of the Bart Luedeke Center one last time.
Campbell’s retirement became effective on Aug. 26 as Westminster’s Associate Dean of Students Cindy Threatt stepped into the interim role.
Campbell’s email to his cranberry family stated that he would retire and move to work with nonprofit organizations.
“I was looking at working with dropouts in Trenton and Camden,” he said. “Because I chair the Trenton Public Education Foundation, I’d get to work with some of the organizations I was with.”
Campbell began networking with members of corporations who donated money to families as part of “social responsibility” projects. However, upon announcing his departure from the school, a new opportunity sprang up.
“I’ve been thinking about this retirement thing really seriously since June,” he said. “I was working with the university to arrange it, and I announced it in July. I said, ‘Okay, it’s time.’ But sometimes God works in strange ways.”
Citing his spiritual guidance as the reason for change, Campbell looks forward to his altered, yet still bright, future.
“God had a different plan for me,” he said. “I announced my retirement on a Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, I had a phone call from a search firm that said, ‘Would you mind looking at an interim position somewhere?’ The next day, they told me it was a Catholic school in Chicago. On Friday, they sent me the job description [for St. Xavier University.] They told me to get my stuff in by Sunday if I was interested. They interviewed me by telephone on Friday, Skyped me on Monday, and that afternoon, they gave me an offer.”
Although Campbell hadn’t heard of St. Xavier before the job offer, he felt compelled to accept it based on the nature of the university.
“How does a Catholic kid turn down a school run by nuns with a social justice mission? I accepted, and it went like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “It’s been a whirlwind. Three weeks ago, I didn’t even know St. Xavier was out there. Now I’m vice president of student affairs there.”
Although Campbell was looking forward to serving his community through nonprofit work, he will still have the chance to impact people whose lives mirror his own. Campbell is the son of a machinist father and a secretary mother, neither of whom attended college. He is also the first of his cousins to seek higher education and hopes to influence those who chose a similar path.
“I wanted to do something that had more of a direct impact on the kind of population that I was growing up,” he said. “What I love about the population [of the school] is it’s a lot of kids from underrepresented populations. It’s very much a social justice mission. It’s helping people move forward, and it’s doing it in a way that I know how.”
Campbell has experience on the boards of the Mill Hill Child Family Development Center, and the Mercer County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Council. Since 2007, he has served as chair of the New Jersey Commission for National and Community Service and was also a chair of the Trenton Public Education Foundation. Still, his longest relationship has been with the Broncs. Serving as associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students since May 1999, Campbell has had much time to create lasting bonds with those he has worked alongside.
He credits the foundation of the Bonner Leadership Program as his greatest achievement while in office, with the original five members growing to now 60. “Seeing the impact they have on the community” has inspired him to work with several student groups, including the Student Government Association (SGA). SGA invested in the turf fields and dining halls, two projects that brought students and staff together to better the university.
“There’s never anything I did; it’s what we did,” Campbell said. “The talented staff and students made things happen — the Student Success Center, the supplemental instruction program, the changes in the career services, the dining hall and resident apartments. I couldn’t have done all of that on my own.”
As he left the Dean’s Suite in Lawrenceville, another prominent figure in the Rider community stepped in. Threatt was “honored, excited and incredibly fortunate” to assume the role of interim dean of students.
She began her work at Rider in 2001 as the director of residence life, and she was named the associate dean of students for the Westminster campus in 2015.
“In each of the roles I’ve played here at the institution, I’ve had the opportunity to build wonderful relationships with students,” Threatt said. “Each position allows me to connect with different individual students, dependent upon the role that I’m playing and how a student might need to access that particular role. I expect now that I’ll get to connect even more deeply with students,” she said.
She also looks forward to building “more intentional relationships with faculty” as she assumes high status on both campuses.
“I’ve had quite a bit of collaborative, inclusive relationships with various administrative offices across both campuses, and that has continued to grow as my position changed. I’ve built really great relationships over the years, and I expect this role to give me a platform to continue to do that in larger numbers.”
Although the job comes with new stress and responsibility, Threatt is not threatened by the amount of work headed her way.
“I’m not really nervous because we have so many wonderful people in this division that, regardless of who sits in this role, they’re going to continue to work really hard on behalf of students all the time,” she said. “It’s a big job, but we’re a big team.”