As I approach the final days of an unforgettable chapter in my life, I regularly pause and reflect upon the very things at Rider that have molded me into the person I am today. I, along with 800 other young men and women who are either testing out the job market or furthering their educations, am ready for what is known as Commencement. While the other graduates and I receive our diplomas, signifying the next phase of our lives, it’s important to note that the place we are leaving is undergoing its own commencement.
For those who were here, Welcome Week 2003 was marked by wet weather and what every student goes through, that time of awkward adjustment from high school to college life. Even our own President, Dr. Mordechai Rozanski, was fresh to the University, making his own transition.
During these four years especially, we as a University have collectively grown. Growth hasn’t risen from education, work and daily activities, but from continually staring adversity in the face and still pushing Rider to the front of the pack. That’s because experiencing any level of adversity is what truly makes us stronger as individuals and as a society.
It all started in fall 2003, like a whirlwind … literally. On a cloudy Tuesday morning in September, a tornado swept through the area, including the Lawrenceville campus. Those who lived on campus remember eating off of paper and plastic utensils in a dark Daly’s Dining Hall, while commuters probably envision the damage the storm took out on the surrounding neighborhoods.
Although the tornado was scary, it was quick and short-lived. The first true taste of adversity for the class of 2007 occurred on an infamous late night in October 2003. A dance turned into a near tragedy when an off-campus guest shot into a crowd on the Bart Luedeke Center patio, ending the basketball career of one female student and injuring another. The community was swallowed by feelings of anger, sympathy and fear, sending the University into a period of assessing and changing policy, nearly similar to what is being done today.
In April 2004, Rider celebrated two major feats: 10 years as a University and the official inauguration of its sixth president. Students may remember the day mostly for the fact that classes were cancelled, but the special occasion really signified Rider’s new push toward a renewal.
When students moved back onto the Lawrenceville campus in September 2004, Rider was already in its infant stages of renewal. We won’t forget the loud noises each and every morning coming from the residence quad. Anyway, while students were subjected to an ugly construction site during a cold winter season, the men’s basketball team warmed things up, making a run to the conference championship game.
Since 2005, it has been a bumpy ride because it seemed that when one door was opened, the door to someone’s life would close. It has been difficult for students to enjoy the new look of the Lawrenceville campus because of devastation caused by the loss of members of our community.
We may hear the cliché over and over how the Rider community is “close-knit,” but it is well deserved. Each and every time we have faced adversity, whether as students, faculty and staff members or administrators, we have always managed to stand together and continue to move forward.
I stand here today, envisioning the teary-eyed 18-year-old freshman I once was, waving to my parents on that rainy Labor Day in 2003. It’s difficult not to get teary-eyed again, knowing that I have now written my final article for The Rider News.
Seniors, I will see you in two weeks, when we commence on our next journey.
Mike served as the Executive Editor for the 2006-2007 school year.