The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) celebrated the accomplishments of its Class of 2022 on Wednesday, May 4, gathering for a luncheon and alumni induction and awards ceremony – a tradition that hasn’t taken place in person in three years.
“It was amazing being able to celebrate the EOF graduates in person again. The resiliency and tenacity these scholars displayed during the pandemic made it an honor for the EOF department to salute their accomplishments,” EOF Director Rahjaun Gordon said.
Students, alumni and EOF employees expressed their gratitude to the program and pride in its students’ success, including Assistant Provost for Special Programs, EOF and Academic Success Daniel Jean.
“We are here today to celebrate your success,” Jean told the students. “When I say I am proud of you, that is an understatement. You are resilient in everything you’ve experienced over the past couple of years, and it’s amazing to see you at this point as you embark on your professional and personal goals.”
As they arrived at the luncheon, the seniors were able to get professional headshots taken and were introduced to EOF donors and special guests.
Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell saluted both the graduating seniors and the alumni and supporters of the program.
“EOF is a program that sort of speaks to the core values of Montclair State University. It’s about making sure that students have the resources that they need to be successful in college, and I’m so proud of the students who are completing their Montclair journey today,” said Koppell. “It’s a testament not only to their hard work and their effort, but the power of a program like this, that really helps people get across the finish line, and that’s why we’re honoring some of our alumni and supporters of the program who recognize its value.”
Two EOF alumni, Greg Collins ’79 and Louis George Gilleran ’79, and Montclair resident Julia Lanigan, all of whom have generously supported the EOF program, received EOF Champion Awards at the event.
“I’m proud to be an alumnus,” said Greg Collins ’79, who is the chair of the University Foundation board and a long-time supporter of the EOF Tuition and Book Scholarship. “If it weren’t for EOF, I would never have been able to pay for college. I’ve been involved with the University in some way, shape, or form since graduation. Being an alumnus and helping other people give back, I make sure that we provide whatever we can for these students so I think it’s a beautiful thing.”
Gilleran, a physician, recently established a scholarship for EOF and the Health Careers Program and traveled from California for the event. “Being an EOF graduate, I was glad to get to a point in my life where I can give back and I am honored to be here and certainly humbled to get this award,” Gilleran said.
Lanigan, who has served on the College of the Arts advisory board, has also established gifts to support the Future College Graduate Academy, which provides a unified enrollment and graduation strategy for highly motivated, low-income students, of which EOF is a part.
The graduating seniors attending the event likened EOF to a “family” on campus that had their backs through their college years.
“The program helped me with having better peer relationships. It’s really like our own little family since they provide so much support for us,” said Joelly Gonzalez, a graduating senior studying Family Science and Human Development. “I’m really excited about what’s to come. I hope to stay in touch with my advisors and see what other opportunities are in store for me.”
Said Nohemi Hernandez, a graduating senior who majored in Family Science and Human Development, “I never thought that college could be a possibility, especially from where I come from. But being able to be here in this event, I’m really proud of myself. And I’m also very thankful to be part of the EOF program as well because there are a lot of supportive people here. …Doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, they’re always going to be there for you.”
Darianna Cook, a senior who studied Family Science and Human Development, credited EOF with her success so far.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be able to graduate, and I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”
Story by University Communications Intern Rosaria Lo Presti. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.