Students looking up at the camera and holding up signs that spell out, thanks!
Donor Impact Stories

A Night of Gratitude

Celebration recognizes the power of donors and pays tribute to Josh Weston, a pillar of philanthropy

Posted in: Montclair State University Donors

Attendees gathered in small groups in front of Alexander Kasser Theater on campus
The Alexander Kasser Theater serves as a beautiful backdrop for the outdoor reception to honor University supporters.

The beauty of the campus and the pride of Montclair State University supporters were on display Wednesday, May 11, as more than 200 guests gathered for a festive celebration recognizing their commitment to the University. The program took place at the Alexander Kasser Theater, with an outdoor reception on the Theater promenade.

In celebrating and showing appreciation for all donors and the impact they have on student success and Montclair’s excellence, the program also honored a singular donor, Josh Weston ’97 Hon., by awarding him the Mary Mochary and Michael Kasser Award for Philanthropic Leadership in recognition of his generosity and engagement in supporting the University and Montclair community.

“It’s impossible to imagine the transformation of Montclair without the support and investment of so many of you and others who are dedicated to the imagination and re-imagination of this University and what it can be,” said Montclair President Jonathan Koppell in acknowledging donor impact. “Philanthropy transforms potential into reality…and when you make a contribution you are helping to create the future of this University.”

In his welcome, Koppell recognized two great presidents in attendance: Bloomfield College President Marcheta Evans and Montclair State University President Emerita Susan Cole, credited as a driving force in the University’s impressive growth during her 23 years.

A singular sensation

Presenting the award to Weston were Mary Mochary, Michael Kasser and Mochary’s daughter, Alex Kasser. The award honors the memory of Mary and Michael’s parents, Alexander and Elisabeth Kasser, who, during World War II, worked with Raoul Wallenberg to save thousands of persecuted Hungarian Jews and political activists.

Weston is the retired CEO and honorary chairman of ADP and is a prolific and hands-on philanthropist and advisor. For more than 20 years, he and his late wife, Judy, invested in enriching the learning environment at Montclair State University and in partnership with the Montclair Public Schools, supporting initiatives to advance STEM education, notably the Weston Science Scholars Program and the Montclair Academic Dual Enrollment Program.

Weston has served as a valued advisor to the University’s College of Science and Mathematics and the Feliciano School of Business. He is active on numerous boards, including the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the International Rescue Committee, Liberty Science Center and many more. Among his honorary doctorate degrees is one in Humane Letters from Montclair State University in 1997.

“He is a pillar of the University community and more profoundly, a pillar of the New Jersey community…we wouldn’t have the same civic foundation in this part of the world without Josh Weston,” said Koppell.

Presenting the award to Weston were Mary Mochary, Michael Kasser and Mochary’s daughter, Alex Kasser. The award honors the memory of Mary and Michael’s parents, Alexander and Elisabeth Kasser, who, during World War II, worked with Raoul Wallenberg to save thousands of persecuted Hungarian Jews and political activists.

“This award carries the legacy of our parents, who were selfless and generous in their giving to help others, and we are proud to share it with such a worthy recipient,” said Mochary. “We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing and the only thing we have left is what we have given away….we are proud that we gave to this theater, and that you, Josh, gave all that you’ve given to this world.”

In a tribute video shown at the event, Weston shared: “When you think about helping others, if your starting point is that you’ve been luckier than most…then I can try to help other people, and I feel good when I help people.”

“Thank you for the award and for supporting Montclair…I am pleased to play a role in helping Montclair State University,” said Weston in accepting the award.

Student gratitude

Mario Rodriguez, President Koppell, Josh Weston, and Samantha Barkho pose on stage
Award recipient Josh Weston (with award) is joined by President Koppell (center, left) and student speakers senior Samantha Barkho and sophomore Mario Rodriguez.

In showing the impact of philanthropy, Montclair State University Foundation Board Chair Gregory Collins ’79 thanked donors and introduced the student portion of the program, calling on two students who have benefited from donor support to share their Montclair experiences.

Throughout her Montclair journey, senior Samantha Barkho, a Business Administration major with a concentration in Marketing, was able to build her leadership skills through involvement in campus organizations and internships.

“Receiving an award goes beyond monetary value…it is helping me continue my education to have a successful future, which I was taught to value from a young age as a first-generation student,” said Barkho. “Having other people help me succeed when life is continuously throwing curve balls helps relieve some of the pressure on my shoulders so I can focus on my studies. I am so grateful for this opportunity.”

Sophomore Mario Rodriguez, majoring in Exercise Science with a concentration in Clinical and Pre-professional Studies, told the audience he instantly felt a sense of belonging when he toured campus, and is grateful to receive scholarship support to help him focus on his studies and his future.

“I would like to thank our committed donors and the faculty and staff for creating an atmosphere that encourages aspirations and the ability to dream the same way my grandmother and my father did when they came to this country for a better tomorrow,” said Rodriguez.

Guests got a taste of the College of the Arts’ excellence as students in the University’s Department of Theatre and Dance performed selections from Into the Woods, A Musical. Also adding to the evening was the student jazz quartet, which played during the reception on the Kasser Promenade and provided a musical backdrop to guests mingling in the beautiful outdoor setting.

Pinnacle of the arts

From left, Beth Kasser, President Emerita Susan Cole, Michael Kasser, Mary Mochary, Alex Kasser, President Koppell and Dean Daniel Gurskis at the newly unveiled Alexander Kasser Theater plaque.

Preceding the donor celebration, a special ceremony was held to unveil a new plaque in the Kasser Theater lobby, commemorating the history and influence of the theater’s namesake, Alexander Kasser, and thanking the Mochary and Kasser family for their commitment to the arts and arts education.

“The arts are central to the identity of the University, and this building, the Alexander Kasser Theater, is central to the arts,” said Daniel Gurskis, dean of the College of the Arts. “We greatly appreciate the support of the Mochary and Kasser family that has allowed this theater and our students to thrive.”

At the close of the evening’s program, Koppell once again thanked all the donors for their support: “We’re here today to celebrate and underscore what’s possible when we come together as a community. …We will build a Montclair State University that underscores the value of public service, that is used as an agent of transformation in our communities and that reinvents education to be accessible for more people…and we will do it with your help.”

students performing on stage
Students from the Department of Theatre and Dance performed selections from Into the Woods, A Musical.
photo of the Kasser theater at dusk
Twilight at the Alexander Kasser Theater and promenade.
As the beneficiaries of philanthropic support, students had the opportunity to interact with the more than 200 donors and guests in attendance.
A lovely evening on campus.
A student jazz quartet plays during the reception on the Kasser promenade.

Story by Laura Iandiorio. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters and Roy Groething.