Beloved professor missed by all
By Steph Mostaccio
There has been a void in the Political Science Department as well as in the state of New Jersey since last Friday, Oct. 12.
That was the day when Dr. David Rebovich, associate professor of political science, managing director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics and well-known political commentator, died suddenly from a heart attack. He was 58.
“A loss of this magnitude cannot be expressed in words,” President Mordechai Rozanski wrote in a statement to the Rider community. “David’s contributions to our community, his passion for his work and his love of teaching were unsurpassed.”
Rebovich collapsed at approximately 9:45 a.m. while he was teaching his 9:10 class, Understanding Politics. Vickie Weaver, director of Public Safety, said campus security received numerous calls about an unconscious professor. Joseph Nadeau, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Science, said one student also called the Lawrence Township Police Department (LTPD) and another student called him to report the incident.
The notification system worked well during this incident, according to Nadeau. He urges students to first call Public Safety during any urgent situations since the officers are closest to the scene and know the protocol for emergencies.
When Public Safety arrived at the scene, the officers and two of the students performed CPR until the LTPD and paramedics arrived. According to Nadeau, early implementation of CPR was a necessity because there was “no breathing, no respiration, no pulse.”
Dr. A.J. Moore, assistant professor of Journalism, said EMTs, Public Safety and LTPD officers rushed into the classroom, where the incident was contained.
Weaver said the students had pushed the desks back to make room for the emergency technicians. Nadeau, one of the five marshals in Fine Arts who is trained to organize evacuations in emergency situations, helped clear the classroom.
According to Moore, the sight was difficult for students to watch.
“There was more than a few students that just really looked emotionally drained,” he said.
Rebovich was taken to Capital Health System—Fuld Campus in Trenton, where he was pronounced dead.
Shirley Turner, associate director of Career Services and a state senator, said Rebovich died practicing the two things he had a passion for most in life: politics and teaching.
“The fact that he ended his life where he enjoyed being most was something that he would have wanted,” she said. “He more or less died with his boots on, as they say.”
According to Nadeau, Rebovich’s 9:10 Understanding Politics class has been assigned to a new classroom for the future. Three adjunct professors will be teaching his classes: two Rider alumni — Victor McDonald and Pauline Goldman — and Kevin McQueeney, a Rutgers University graduate student.
Senior Bernadette Ulsh, who was doing her independent study with Rebovich this semester, said he was an amazing professor who inspired students to become interested in politics.
“He was notorious for his jokes in class, but when he did talk about the subject matter, you knew that he had a passion for what he was teaching and that he knew a lot about what he was saying,” she said.
Turner pointed out that his ability to get students interested in politics was one of his special traits.
“I think he made them realize that regardless if you like politics or not, it has a great impact on your education as well as your life,” Turner said.
Ulsh also said that Rebovich cared about his students.
“He ended every class by saying, ‘I love you all,’” she said. “You wouldn’t get that from any other professor on campus.”
Junior Kyle Battaglia, who was taking Campaigning and Elections with Rebovich this semester, said the late professor was the best teacher that he ever had.
“I looked forward to his classes like no other,” he said. “I never missed his classes and never wanted to. He was the reason I came to Rider, and he was the reason why I enjoyed it so much.”
Rebovich was also Battaglia’s internship and academic adviser. But to Battaglia, he was so much more than that.
“Reb was like a second father to me,” he said. “He was my mentor.”
According to Dr. Frank Rusciano, a professor in the Political Science Department, Rebovich instilled in his students a desire to work in government.
“I can’t tell you how many former students are in New Jersey government now,” said Rusciano. “Most, if not all of them, were Dr. Rebovich’s students at one time or another.”
In addition to teaching at Rider, Rebovich was also the managing director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics, an organization that he founded at the University. Rebovich was the expert on New Jersey politics, according to Rusciano.
Before his death, Rebovich was planning a debate between the campus Republicans and the campus Democrats, which was scheduled to take place yesterday. Battaglia, one of the participants, said Rebovich had prepared 22 pages of issues pertaining to New Jersey politics for the debate.
Battaglia said the students still plan to have the debate later in the semester because that is what Rebovich would have wanted. The students are also going to try to keep the Institute alive, but Battaglia knows that is not going to be easy.
According to Jonathan Meer, vice president for University Advancement, the future of the Institute is undecided at this time. He noted that senior administrators will be meeting next week to evaluate the institute’s future. In the coming weeks, University officials will also meet with major donors to the institute and the students involved in this organization.
The search for a new director will only occur if the University decides to continue the work of the institute.
“First, we have to decide whether the Institute will continue and then we’ll decide what kind of leadership is appropriate,” said Meer.
If the institute does have a future, Rusciano said it will be difficult to find another director.
“We basically lost the person who did New Jersey politics, and he drew a lot of media attention to the department and to Rider,” said Rusciano. “I don’t know if it would be possible to replace that — at least not easily or soon.”
Rebovich’s political knowledge landed him the title of the 16th most influential person in state politics. His knowledge also made him one of the most sought-after political commentators. Turner remembers seeing him often at the State House being swarmed by the media.
“He was like a magnet,” she said. “He just attracted people who wanted to pick his brain. He had so much knowledge and was so willing to share that information and knowledge with others.”