By Shanna O’Mara
Students, staff and alumni flocked to the Bart Luedeke Center Theater on Nov. 13 for a memorial service to commemorate the life of Dr. Howard Schwartz.
Schwartz passed away on June 28 at the age of 76 after battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. During his 37 years at Rider, he founded the Department of Communication and Journalism and was a founder of Rider’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). Even after his retirement in 2005, Schwartz impacted the lives of many.
“Dr. Schwartz did not touch us just for a moment,” Reginald Lorjuste, ’00, said. “He touched us for a movement,” toward achieving and inspiring those around him to get involved.
Schwartz urged his students to be confident in themselves and to take advantage of the fact that they could change the world. Many have since excelled in fields as diverse as education, news reporting and religion, such as Lorjuste who is now a pastor at his local church.
Colleagues of Schwartz recognized his warmth and sincerity while he created a “sense of family” within the department, according to Dr. Jonathan Millen, professor of communication and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences. He was always “more mentor than administrator, more friend than colleague, more nurturer than teacher.”
Also serving as an adviser for the Phi Sigma Epsilon brothers, Schwartz embraced his mentor status by assisting, protecting and loving everyone around him, speakers said. He offered a helping hand and open arms to anyone in need, and, as expressed during the memorial, those touched will be eternally grateful.
“The teacher in him was always there,” Jill Canastra, ’72, said. “Perhaps in no time was that more evident than in the lessons he taught over the years of his fight against cancer.”
Keeping in touch with past students and fellow staff members, Schwartz continued to inspire those around him and remained optimistic and humorous until his last day.
During his years at Rider, Schwartz not only influenced his students, fraternity advisees and coworkers, but he also impacted the legacy of the school itself. He served as the communication department’s chair until his retirement, and in his early years served as president of the Rider Faculty Senate, seedbed of the AAUP. He helped develop Rider’s EOP in 1969, and alongside his wife, Harriett, mentored innumerable students through the program.
Schwartz was awarded many honors throughout his career. In 1982, he received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. Upon his retirement in 2005, Schwartz was designated a New Jersey State EOP Champion, and the New Jersey Assembly and Senate honored him with a joint resolution praising his accomplishments. In 2009, Schwartz was honored by the New Jersey Equal Opportunity board of directors as “A Fortunate Find.”
Harriett Schwartz, his loving wife, recalled holding his 2009 award and rubbing her finger over the words “A Fortunate Find and A Rare Treasure.” Howard Schwartz embodied this phrase, according to the many members of the Rider community who attended his memorial.
By Shanna O’Mara