By Casey Gale and Alexis Schulz
From May 15-17, Rider and Westminster will hold their 148th and 85th commencement ceremonies, respectively. While graduates may look forward to a day of celebration with classmates and loved ones, an inside look at the events show that commencement involves far more than just walking across the stage.
Honorary degrees and speakers
Rider will honor two distinguished members of its alumni family, both of whom will speak at the two Lawrenceville commencement ceremonies. The first is Joan C. Mazzotti, ’72, who will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The second is Howard Stoeckel, ’67, who will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Mazzotti earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Rider and her law degree from Villanova University School of Law. Executive director of Philadelphia Futures, she served as chairwoman of the Rider University Board of Trustees from 1998-2002, and was a Trustee from 1996-2005. In 2006, Mazzotti, along with her husband, Michael Kelly, established the Mazzotti Awards in Women’s Leadership to provide leadership development opportunities for Rider’s female faculty and administrators.
Stoeckel earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Rider. The author of The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience, Stoeckel served as Wawa’s CEO for eight years. He was chairman of the Rider University Board of Trustees from 2008-12, and has been a Trustee since 2005.
During the Westminster Choir College (WCC) ceremonies, two highly acclaimed leaders in the arts community will speak and be awarded honorary doctorates, Clive Gillinson and Joseph Flummerfelt.
Gillinson is the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall. He is responsible for developing the artistic concepts for Carnegie Hall presentations in its three halls, representing approximately 180 performances each season. He has also led Carnegie Hall in a new direction in its concert and education programming.
Flummerfelt earned international recognition as WCC’s director of choral activities and conductor of the Westminster Choir for 33 years. He retired in 2004, but continues as an emeritus member of the Westminster faculty and conductor laureate. A Musical America’s 2004 Conductor of the Year, he served as artistic director for choral activities for the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, from 1971-93, and the Spoleto Festival USA from 1977 until 2013.
Though WCC will not have a student commencement speaker, the Lawrenceville ceremonies will present two student speakers. The undergraduate speaker will be Michael Musso, and the speaker for graduate and College of Continuing Studies (CCS) commencement will be Eugene Marsh.
Musso, a history major, served as a delegate on Rider’s Model United Nations team in 2014, and was a Commuter Representative for the Student Senate from 2012-14. He was awarded Gary A. Carskaddan History Prize, and was also a member of the Phi Alpha Theta history honors society and the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership honors society.
Marsh, a liberal studies major and decorated Vietnam veteran, was the first African-American to integrate into an all-white high school in 1965. The president and CEO of Construction Project Management Services Inc., he has recieved many acknowledgements in the community, such as the One Hundred Black Men of America President’s Award in 2012, and the Buffalo Soldier Medal at Rider in 2013.
After transferring to Rider in 2010 from Mercer County Community College, he said he found himself struggling.
“I felt that this was the right place for me as an older student who wanted to continue an education, and also use the resources that were available to me here,” he said.“Little did I know when I came here how difficult it was. I felt that I was not prepared for courses on a university level. At one point, I was depressed, consumed with the idea that I was going to fail, and I was going to drop out.”
Marsh sought out the assistance of the Student Success Center, which helped get his grades back on track.
“They transformed my whole academic career,” he said.
Marsh said he called upon his past obstacles to write a meaningful commencement speech.
“The speech that I wrote talks about a young man such as myself, who had all of the obstacles that could be put before you, and I was able to mount up a strategy to overcome them, notwithstanding the fact that I failed, but I also came back because of my motivation,” he said.
Lawrenceville campus logistics
The graduate and CCS ceremony will be held on May 15, with a precssion beginning at 5 p.m. The undergraduate ceremony will be held on May 16, with the procession beginning at 9:30 a.m. The ceremonies will be held on the Campus Green or in Alumni Gym, depending on the weather. A decision will be made three hours before the ceremony begins.
Students and guests will not need tickets if the ceremonies are held on the Campus Green. Because of seating capacity limitations, all guests will need a ticket for entrance into Alumni Gym, where seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis if weather is poor. Graduates receive rain tickets for guests when they pick up their cap and gown. Students participating in the graduate and CCS ceremony receive five tickets, while undergraduate students will receive two tickets.
A rehearsal will not be held prior to the event. Graduates should arrive at the Bart Luedeke Center Cavalla Room an hour and a half before the beginning of the ceremony, where they can check in with marshals, who will assist in robing and lining up for procession. If weather conditions are poor, students will meet to robe on the Student Recreation Center courts.
Graduates are seated with their college in alphabetical order by last name. A reader card system will be used to ensure that the correct name is used as the graduate crosses the stage, so students are asked to be sure not to lose the reader card that the marshals’ assistant will provide.
Students can expect traffic in the area and on campus, so they should allow extra time for travel. Rider Public Safety officers and the Lawrence Township Police Department will be on hand to help pedestrians and assist with parking.
Due to the high volume of guests, traffic will be slow-moving on campus. Guests and graduates with special needs, handicap placards and mobility issues may park in the visitors parking lot. Golf cart transportation will be provided to take guests from the parking lot to the ceremony site.
After the ceremonies, graduates and guests may attend a reception in the Cavalla Room, where beverages and desserts will be served.
Westminster campus logistics
Rehearsal for the ceremony will take place May 16 at the Princeton University Chapel from 1-6 p.m. The WCC Commencement ceremony will be held at the Princeton University Chapel on May 17. Pre-ceremony music begins at 9:45 a.m., and the ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. A rehearsal will not be held prior to the event.
WCC students will receive six tickets for guests.
It is suggested that families park on the Westminster campus and walk to the Princeton University Chapel, or park in the municipal lot on Spring Street in Princeton.
There will not be food provided for attendees during or after the WCC ceremony. Those who wish to dine out following the ceremonies should make reservations.
Students who have not yet received their cap and gown must do so before May 2 in the Office of the President, on the ground floor of Moore Library, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. To eliminate wrinkles, students should hang up their gowns, steam them or even turn them inside out and iron them. The gowns are eco-friendly and made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Approximately 23 bottles are used to make each gown. Caps and gowns do not need to be returned. As there will be times when those attending ceremonies on the Rider campus will need to walk through grass, high heels are not suggested.
The ceremonies will be broadcast on 107.7 FM and webcast at www.1077thebronc.com. Live video streaming of the event can also be viewed on www.rider.edu/commencement.