Faculty dressed in Academic robes as the University celebrated the 79th anniversary of its founding this past Wednesday. The day was a celebration of all of the students, faculty, alumni, and administration for all of the hard work and good the University has done throughout the years.
“We are proud of our heritage, serving our students and our community for nearly four decades,” said President Paul Gaffney II. “We gather formally to mark the academic year; it is fitting to reaffirm our strong commitment to personalized teaching and individual development.”
The Founder’s Day Convocation Ceremony took place in Pollak Theatre, which was then followed by a reception in Wilson Hall.
This year’s Founder’s Day speaker was Michael E. Uslan, author, Emmy Award recipient and executive producer of the modern Batman movies. Uslan spoke for about a half hour and his goal was to inspire students and let them know that their dreams can come true, just as his did.
He ended his speech with a passage from Robert Frost. “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” said Uslan.
Uslan grew up in Ocean Township with a deep love for comic books. The honorary degree he was given was the first doctorate of comic books ever given out in the world.
“To anyone ailing out there, I say read two comics and call me in the morning,” Uslan said with a smile. “I accept this doctorate on behalf of all of the creators, writers, artists, editors, and publishers in the comic book industry since 1934.”
Uslan was not the only person given an award on Wednesday.
Dr. Donald McKenzie and Arie Van Everdingen were honored with the President’s Vision Award. The award was first given out back in 1999 and has only been awarded five times. “Arie and I are overwhelmingly honored to receive the Vision Award from President Gaffney and we are acutely humbled,” said Mckenzie.
McKenzie came to the University in 1967, where he taught courses on eighteenth century literature and made many distinguished presentations in the field.
Van Everdingen arrived in 1966 and went on to teach for 25 years. From 1974-1980, he served as chair of the Art Department and played a role in getting the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree on campus. He also taught many different courses on art and for many years hosted the annual Candlelight Tour of Wilson Hall.
“Even after 17 years people ask me the proverbial question ‘do you miss the beach?’ Because my job is exclusively in studio performance, I answer no,” joked Van Everdingen.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to a graduate who has achievement and distinction in their life. This year’s award went to alumnus John P. O’Donnell.
O’Donnell spent his career as an engineer. He graduated in 1967 with a degree in engineering, and went on to have success as an engineer working on commercial color television tubes. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease along the way, but he did not let it slow him down. When introduced during the convocation ceremony, O’Donnell said he was speechless and tried to hold back his emotions.
“I’m shaking because I have Parksinson’s, I’m not afraid of anything,” O’Donnell said with a smile.
Oscar Sanchez, President of Student Government Association, said while the University has a lovely appearance, it’s days like Founder’s Day that acknowledges what really makes up the campus, which is the people who are a part of it.
“This University reminds me of an iPhone, we’re beautiful on the outside but it’s all the parts within us that make us the well-oiled machine that we are,” said Sanchez.
Next year, the University will celebrate its 80th anniversary and according to Board of Trustees Chairman Robert B. Sculthrope the future could be even brighter. “Let us remember the past, look to the present and with hope and anticipation to the future,” said Sculthorpe. “The Monmouth story is still untold and perhaps the best is yet to be written.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Blaze Nowara