In a celebration of philanthropy and achievements, more than 250 Montclair State University alumni, friends, benefactors and community members gathered on campus to raise money for student scholarships as well as to recognize the distinguished service of Montclair State President Susan A. Cole and honor four influential alumni on Saturday, May 22, 2021.
The Montclair State University Foundation announced that more than $4 million was raised in scholarship and program funds for future generations of students, including nearly $750,000 as part of the Annual Scholarship Fundraiser. Some $3.5 million of that was pledged in Dr. Cole’s honor.
Under the stars and a canopy of fairy lights, a festive outdoor reception that followed COVID-19 safety protocols enabled guests to come together in-person in front of the newly renovated and iconic College Hall and for an awards program and student performance, which also was live-streamed from the University’s landmark Amphitheater.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy kicked off the evening by paying tribute to President Cole as she prepares to retire in July after 23 years of distinguished leadership. The Governor presented Cole with a proclamation thanking her for her service and honoring her tremendous legacy. “Susan … has made an indelible mark on this institution, within our higher education community, and on our state,” said Murphy. “Your love of this institution has radiated throughout your efforts to better its future…. Because of you, the future of Montclair State has never been brighter.”
“The greatest blessing … you can have in life is the privilege to do the work that is meaningful to you,” said Cole. “It has been a gift for me … to be able to contribute what we build here in this University, the whole purpose of which is to give other people the chance that I had to do the work that was meaningful to me.”
Adding to the tribute, Montclair State University Board of Trustees Chair Francis M. Cuss announced at the close of the evening that $3.5 million in gifts have been pledged in President Cole’s honor to date, with continued opportunities for people to give over the next two months. The gifts will benefit students and programs across the University, supporting, in particular, the President Susan A. Cole Scholarship. This new scholarship will ensure that New Jersey students who have strived to achieve educational success have the opportunity for an education at Montclair State without respect to the economic and social challenges they may face or the life circumstances into which they were born.
“You have dedicated your life to improving students’ futures and developing the informed citizens who are so important to our state and country. The life-changing opportunities afforded by these scholarships that will bear your name, will be another wonderful part of your legacy,” said Cuss.
“During my 23 years, about 100,000 students graduated from Montclair State, and each time a student walked across the stage and shook my hand was a defining moment,” Cole said during her address. “Each time and every time, one more soul, rich with potential and hope, had made their way through the obstacles and was on the path to embracing a better and more constructive life because of their journey through this University. That has been powerful work to be doing, and those moments defined me both as a person and as a president, and it defines all of you who make it possible with your support.”
Four Distinguished Honorees
The evening’s program also celebrated the remarkable achievements of four alumni who have carried their Montclair State education forward to achieve great success in their professions and in their communities.
Community philanthropist and dedicated alumna Rose L. Cali ’80 received the Mary Mochary and Michael Kasser Award for Philanthropic Leadership, presented to her by Mary Mochary. The award is named for Mochary and her brother Michael Kasser, the daughter and son of Alexander Kasser, for whom the University’s theater is named. The award is presented to a member of the community who, through exceptional generosity and engagement, is committed to creating new pathways and opportunities for Montclair State students. Cali’s extensive service to the University includes leadership roles on multiple boards, and she and her late husband, John, created opportunities for generations of music students through an endowed gift for scholarships through the John J. Cali School of Music.
Cali presented the Rose and John J. Cali Award for Business Leadership and Community Engagement to Michael J. Fucci ’80, former chairman of the Deloitte US Board of Directors, in recognition of his work to develop leaders in the workplace and inspire students as future leaders. In his remarks, Fucci stressed that helping others along their journey is the key to the future of education and the business world.
Co-honorees Denise Rover ’84 and Al Prieto ’84 received the Margaret and Herman Sokol Award for Alumni Achievement and Civic Leadership, which is bestowed on a Montclair State graduate who has made a significant contribution to industry, culture and/or society. Alumnus and chair of the Montclair State University Foundation Board of Trustees Greg Collins presented the award to Rover, sales account manager at NBCUniversal, and to Prieto, vice president of NewsOne at ABC News. In addition to their decorated careers, both alumni have been integral members of the University’s College of the Arts, with both serving on the College’s Advisory Board and Prieto also serving as a member of the Advisory Board of its School of Communication and Media.
Students in Montclair State’s College of the Arts Theatre and Dance program performed selections from Working, A Musical; Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon; and Titanic, The Musical, in the Amphitheater. This was the first time that students had performed for a live audience in more than a year.
Elevating Students’ Futures
Since 1999, the Annual Scholarship Fundraiser has raised millions of dollars to support student scholarships that provide financial assistance to hundreds of students of limited financial means, enabling them to pursue and complete their studies at Montclair State.
For students like Ashon Lanada, a junior majoring in Business Administration, scholarship support is life changing. “What drives me is the fact that nobody in my family has done this before – I’m the first to have these opportunities. As a first-generation college student, it’s vital for me to start the story.”
Top sponsors of the 2021 Annual Scholarship Fundraiser include the McMullen Family Foundation, ADP, Deloitte, Inserra Supermarkets, Liberty Coca-Cola Beverage, Michael Kasser and Mary Mochary Families, Peapack-Gladstone Bank, Rose L. Cali and Schumacher Chevrolet Auto Group.
“Every scholarship dollar raised matters for Montclair State students, with more than 70% of our students relying on some form of financial assistance to attend college,” says Vice President for Development Colleen Coppla. “We are tremendously grateful for the network of support that lifts our students up and helps them transform their lives through an excellent and affordable Montclair State education.”
To support student scholarships at Montclair State, visit the Annual Scholarship Fundraiser website.
To learn more and donate in honor of President Cole, visit our crowdfunding campaign.
Watch Videos of the Event
- See the Tribute to Dr. Cole.
- See the “Pathway to Achievements” video celebrating scholarships.