A congressman and two longtime members of the College community were honored along with the School of Art, Media and Music at the Founder’s Day Leadership Convocation Thursday night in the Music Building Concert Hall.
Ernest Rydell, Christopher Smith and Robert Parrish were selected for their efforts and dedication to the College. Rydell, class of 1960, received the Distinguished Service Award, while Smith, class of 1975, received the Humanitarian Award and Parrish, class of 1972, was awarded the prestigious Alumni Citation Award.
“Our award winners are our best proof that we are good at what we do,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said to start the ceremony.
Greg Bellotti, president of the Alumni Association, presented the three individuals’ awards. He said that the three things these men have in common are “work ethic, teamwork and humanitarian effort.”
Since 1998, the Distinguished Service Award has recognized an alumnus or alumna who has shown “exceptional service to the College, his or her class, the Alumni Association and/or the College’s students.”
Rydell, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, held many positions over his 26 years of service to the College, including assistant director of Admissions and director of College Development and College Relations.
He helped start an annual fund program and a quarterly alumni publication titled The Accent. Currently, Rydell serves on the executive board of the College’s Alumni Association and lives in East Stroudsburg, Pa. with his wife, who is an alumna of the College.
“He has done more behind the scenes than anyone realizes,” Bellotti said as he presented Rydell with the award.
“I spent a great deal thinking about my 50 years at this institution,” Rydell said. “As I thought about those years, I realized our entire lives are about people.”
The Humanitarian Award, which was first awarded in 2001, recognizes alumni who exemplify “outstanding public-spiritedness or concern for human welfare through philanthropic activities.”
Smith, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is entering his 25th year as a Republican member of the House of Representatives and serves on various committees that work with human rights, veteran benefits and international relations.
Most notably, he helped establish a Title I health law to learn the causes of autism. He lives in Hamilton with his wife and four children.
“He is just an amazing man and I am happy I get to walk into a booth and cast my vote for him,” Bellotti said.
Smith expressed his pride for the College, saying that he has a “pipeline” of students from the College walk through his offices. “It is a great place to recruit,” he said. “They are highly enthusiastic individuals.”
As for his award, “I just try to take that agenda and work it into Congress to promote human rights and humanitarian issues,” he said.
The Alumni Citation Award recognizes a living alumnus or alumna who has “achieved exceptional success in work and/or community” and “demonstrated a sustained support to the Alumni Annual Fund.”
Parrish received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at the College. He was the artistic director of Opera Theatre, chair of the music department and professor of music and stage.
He served on several planning committees, most recently for the renovation of Kendall Hall and the Sesquicentennial. He lives with his wife in Bradenton, Fla. where he is an adjunct professor at a community college and director of music at his church.
Bellotti described Parrish as a dedicated man. He explained that Parrish travels hundreds of miles just to help out with Opera Theatre productions at the College.
“When I was called (and told) that I had won an award, I was dumbfounded,” Parrish said. “I can think of 50 other individuals who I would consider more deserving than myself.”
Parrish thanked his former professors, mentors and students for influencing him. “I was very lucky and am still very lucky,” he said. “I could work with talented students who were taught by excellent teachers.”
Parrish then asked anyone who was ever involved in a theater production at the College to stand. After a significant number of current and former students stood, he said, “This is my success. This is what (the College) is about: vibrant, caring individuals.”
James Lentini, dean of the School of Art, Media, and Music, accepted an honor awarded to the school. He enthusiastically mentioned some of the new programs and classes that the school offers, including interactive multimedia and graphic design.
The event ended with a musical performance by Opera Theatre dedicated to Parrish and his commitment to the program.