By Stephen Weir
Chaplain Wayne Meisel, the newest addition to Rider, brings not only 22-plus years of ministry experience but also excellent dedication and passion to the Rider student community.
His goal at Rider is to build up the community while strengthening individuals’ characters.
“I see my role as a loving presence, to be there for people in times of joy and need, and always committed to community life for everybody,” he said. “Anytime people talk about religion, there is an anxiety born out of it. My interest is to help people run their own faith journey, not to convert them.”
The New Jersey native grew up in Princeton and attended Harvard University. He graduated cum laude from Harvard with a bachelor’s in government in 1982, and later attended Princeton Theological Seminary.
He was a John Harvard Scholar, the highest academic achievement available, and was awarded a John Finley Traveling Fellowship.
While in school, Meisel found it disheartening the way his generation was perceived.
“I went to school living in the negative stereotype that society has of young people as lazy and unwilling to make a difference,” he said.
Convinced that this stereotype was false, he came to realize his full potential and the need for better campus outreach after graduation.
“First as an individual, then with my friends, then as a generation, we realized we needed to rebuild a student movement around communal service,” he said.
Meisel understands students, and has developed his entire career around reaching out and making a positive difference through a unique blend of community service and faith.
To do this, he involved himself in local community projects and, through connections with his father’s church, helped to found the Bonner Foundation in 1989.
Bonner gives scholarship opportunities to students who demonstrate community service involvement. Meisel has long been affiliated with Rider through this program.
Meisel’s commitment to community service has led to the creation of several programs, all with the notion of uplifting communities through engaging students in local civic involvement.
Meisel is also a presidential appointee to the Commission on National Community Service; he is involved with AmeriCorps programs, and is a board member of Teach for America, which works to improve the quality of education in low-income areas.
Meisel said his inspiration comes mainly from his childhood and early adulthood, when he himself was a student.
“I didn’t realize when I was growing up how big a part my father played in my life. What he taught me defines my character today,” he said.
Chaplain Meisel has written more than a dozen articles as well as two books on the subject; “Building a Movement: Students in Community Service” and “Student Ideas to Campus Action.”