By Katie Zeck
UPDATED WITH CORRECTIONS.
With less than two weeks left of their final semester as undergraduates at Rider, 935 commencement candidates have reached the finish line in their collegiate careers as the anxiously awaited graduation day quickly approaches.
On Friday, May 13, the candidates will share the stage with the recipients of two honorary degrees. This year’s recipients will be Nobel Prize winner Dr. Martin L. Perl and Rider alumnus Sam A. Soloman, president and CEO of The Coleman Company.
At the Westminster Choir College commencement on Saturday, May 14, composer Stephen Paulus will receive an honorary degree and also give the commencement address.
Rider’s 146th undergraduate graduation ceremony will start at 9:30 a.m., on the Campus Green with a reception to follow in the Cavalla Room of the BLC.
An honorary degree is the highest tribute the university can present to an individual who is not a member of the faculty. The honor is given to those who exemplify extraordinary qualities and talents and use those attributes to contribute to and enhance a certain area of study.
Perl was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics after discovering the tau lepton, a particle similar to an electron. His research has helped explain dark energy, an unknown phenomenon that is causing the universe to speedily expand.
Perl, who works as a science educator at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and the SLAC National Accelerator Center of Stanford University, will be awarded for his exceptional work in the fields of physics and astrophysics. His advancements in these areas of study have helped to improve scientists’ understanding of why the universe is expanding so quickly and have earned him an array of awards such as the 1982 Wolf Prize in Physics and a membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
As president of the leading provider of outdoor recreation consumer products, Soloman is experienced in the many facets of the business world. Soloman graduated from Rider in 1990 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Rider University’s College of Continuing Studies. He went on to receive his master’s degree in business administration degree from Duke University. He is a certified public accountant and serves as a trustee of the Wichita Collegiate School. His work at the Coleman Company has helped transform it into a Fortune 500 corporation.
A strong supporter of the music produced by all types of composers, Paulus is the vice president of the American Composers Forum, the largest composer service organization in the world. He has written nine scores, and 200 additional works for orchestras, voice, chamber ensembles, opera, and keyboard. Paulus has also written music for solo artists such as Evelyn Lear, Leo Kottke and Robert McDuffie and has worked closely with Westminster for the past decade.
In addition to the honorary degree recipients, Rider’s graduation ceremony will showcase a student commencement speaker, English major and American studies minor Rance Robeson.
“It was a long process,” Robeson explained. “I had to first answer essay questions, then create a resume highlighting my participation on Rider’s campus, go through an interview process and lastly perform part of the speech I would give on graduation in front of the committee.”
Any student of the graduating class was eligible to submit an application to the Commencement Speaker Committee describing why they should be chosen to address their fellow peers and colleagues. The opportunity to do so is an honor, said Special Events and Projects Manager Beverly Braddock.
“Only a select few choose to apply, and it takes a poised, confident individual to be able to stand up in front of a crowd of thousands to represent their class and share their insights on becoming a Rider graduate,” she said. “It is an honor to be selected to address fellow students during commencement.”
With the intense selection process behind him, Robeson said he is excited to connect with his classmates and celebrate what they have worked for the past four years and to look ahead at all they have to achieve.
“[In my speech] I am going to stress that we are the generation of graduates,” he said. “This ultimately means we have the ability and opportunity to make the world over in our images.”
The end of the ceremony will mark the next chapter in the candidates’ lives.
Senior public relations major Stephanie Trabold said she is thrilled to be embarking on new and exciting challenges.
“I am so ecstatic to start my career and begin getting paid to do what I love,” she said. “I feel confident in the education Rider has given me and I am more than ready to tackle whatever life throws at me.”
Kiera Smith said the idea of graduating in less than two weeks is a bittersweet thought.
“I’m happy and sad at the same time. I’m excited because I get to go off and do something and leave Rider, but I’m sad because I have so many great friends and memories here.”