Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Seth Jeremy DvorinBiographies for the recipients of the awards listed and linked below have been updated when possible. Otherwise, they represent the information available as of the dates of induction. Send updates or corrections.

  • Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award: Established in September 2000 to recognize Livingston College alumni who have distinguished themselves by contributions they have made in their chosen fields of endeavor, by the leadership they have exhibited, and by the general benefits to the larger society resulting from their activities. <!--Nominate a Distinguished Alumna/Alumnus. -->
  • Seth Dvorin Distinguished Young Alumni Award: Established in November 2004 in memory of Army Lt. Seth Jeremy Dvorin (LC’02, Administration of Justice; pictured at right), who was killed in Iraq on February 3, 2004. The Seth Dvorin Award was presented to Livingston College young alumni who have distinguished themselves by contributions they have made in their chosen fields of endeavor, by the leadership they have exhibited, and by the general benefits to the larger society resulting from their activities. The three recipients of this award are noted below. This award is now retired.

2000 Inductees

Riki Jacobs Clifton R. Lacy John S. Lipori Alfred E. Ramey, Jr.
Director of AIDS Support Organization;
Health Educator (died in 2009)
Medical Leader;
New Jersey State Health Commissioner
Banking Executive University Counsel;
New Jersey Assistant Attorney General

2002 Inductees

Thomas F. Daley Susan Kille David A. Laskow Steven D. Plofker
District Attorney; Judge; Adjunct Professor of Law (died in 2015) Newspaper Journalist Surgeon; Associate Professor of Surgery Real Estate Developer; Attorney

2004 Inductees

Frank T. Carvill Gina Collins Cummings Edward E. Johnson, Jr.
New Jersey National Guardsman
Killed in Iraq (Posthumous; died in 2004)
Environmental, Health,
and Social Justice Activist
Wall Street Executive
Michael C. Laracy Karen Rogers Harry V. Swayne III
Advocate for Children and Families Seth Dvorin Distinguished
Young Alumni Award

Television Meteorologist/Journalist
Football Executive and Player

2006 Inductees

Avery Brooks Colleen Fraser Mark Helias
Actor; Director; Singer; Professor, Mason Gross School of the Arts Advocate for People with Disabilities;
Hero of United Airlines Flight 93
(Posthumous; died in 2001)
Jazz Musician and Composer
Liza Kirschenbaum Andrea D. Lyon Gregg Spiridellis
Advocate for Children in the Courts Law School Dean;
Expert in Death-Penalty Defense
Seth Dvorin Distinguished
Young Alumni Award

Entrepreneur in Online Entertainment

2009 Inductees 

Kevin Apuzzio Marla Diamond Francoise Jacobsohn Martha Nell Smith
Seth Dvorin Distinguished Young Alumni Award
 Heroic Firefighter and
Emergency Medical Technician
(Posthumous; died in 2006)
Radio Journalist  Advocate for Women and Workers Professor of English;
Emily Dickinson Scholar

2011 Inductees

Gregory Q. Brown Eddie Jordan
Rutgers Board of Governors Chair;
Business Leader
 Rutgers Men’s Basketball Head Coach (2013-2016)
and Player (1973-1977)

2013 Inductees

Ndidi Amutah Nicholas Ferroni Jessie J. Hanna
Assistant Professor
Researcher on Health and Nutrition
Educator and Historian Physician
Researcher on Pediatric Cancer

2015 Inductees

Robert Bertrand Kenneth Cop Deborah Stokes
Radio Engineer Rutgers University Executive Director of Police Services / Chief of Police Museum Curator and Arts Educator

2018 Inductees

Staci Berger Jeanie Bryson Dr. Everette Penn
Housing and Community Development Advocate Jazz/Pop/Latin Vocalist Race/Youth/Justice Scholar
Carlyle E. Shelton Jr. Robert W. Snyder Deborah Stokes
Deputy Inspector General,
U.S. Marine Corps
Professor, American Studies and Journalism College Advisor and Social Justice Advocate

Seth Dvorin, LC’02, Was Killed in Battle in Iraq; Distinguished Young Alumni Award Named for Him

Seth Jeremy DvorinU.S. Army Lt. Seth Jeremy Dvorin, a 2002 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University, was killed in battle near Iskandariyah, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2004.

An improvised explosive device (IED) killed Dvorin, age 24, while he was conducting counter-IED operations.

In 2004, Rutgers’ Livingston Alumni Association created the Seth Dvorin Distinguished Young Alumni Award in his honor.

Dvorin had been assigned to Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York.

Seth Dvorin and Sue NiedererDvorin’s sister, Rebekah, told The Associated Press that the Army informed her that “Seth’s unit had been ordered to clear the area of the homemade mines and bombs that have killed dozens of troops. … They were in a convoy and saw something in the road. My brother, the hero, told his driver to stop. That’s when the bomb detonated, when they were trying to dismantle it.”

Dvorin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Administration of Justice from Livingston College in 2002. Born in Freehold, New Jersey, he grew up in East Brunswick and South Brunswick, New Jersey. He graduated from South Brunswick High School, where he played football and baseball.

Dvorin traveled extensively, including to Europe and Israel. He loved animals and cars, especially Mustangs, and was an excellent cook. He had lived in Evans Mills, New York, at the time of his death.

Seth and Kelly DvorinDvorin was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor. He was buried in Marlboro Memorial Cemetery, Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Surviving Dvorin were his wife, Kelly Harris Dvorin, whom he married on August 26, 2003, five days before leaving for Iraq; his mother, Sue Niederer, and her husband Greg; his father, Richard Dvorin, and his companion Ellen Sutton; his sister, Rebekah Dvorin, and her then-fiance, Walter Gruszka; his stepbrother, Joshua Dvorin; his paternal grandmother, Ruth Dvorin; his maternal grandfather, Jacob Sapir; and his uncles Gary Sapir and Howard Dvorin. 

Dvorin’s mother, Sue Niederer, has protested the Bush Administration for the US involvement in Iraq, and criticized Donald J. Trump for his insensitivity to Gold Star families who have lost family members in battle.

As of 2018 she continues to speak on behalf of the GI Go Fund, a national nonprofit organization that helps veterans find employment and secure education and health care benefits, and provides assistance to low-income and homeless veterans, according to a May 26, 2018, article from My Central Jersey. Friends of Dvorin founded the GI Go Fund in 2006.

Seth Dvorin’s father, Richard Dvorin, a U.S. Air Force veteran, worked through his grief by volunteering for a phone hotline for veterans and their families.

Richard Dvorin also served as Past Commander for the Lt. Seth Dvorin Jewish War Veterans Post #972 in Marlboro, New Jersey, renamed for his son in 2004. Richard Dvorin died in 2013.

Photos: Seth Dvorin; Dvorin with his mother, Sue Niederer; Dvorin with his wife, Kelly Dvorin.

‘Intimate’ Vocalist Jeanie Bryson, LC’81, Inspired by Rutgers’ Jazz Department; Honored as a Distinguished Alumna in 2018

Jeanie Bryson Jeanie Bryson, a 1981 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, is a vocalist of jazz, pop and Latin songs whose style has been described as “intimate.”

On March 20, 2018, the Livingston Alumni Association (LAA) honored Bryson with the Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award. Bryson and five other exceptional graduates of Livingston College were honored at an awards celebration at Rutgers.

Jeanie Bryson album coversA “world-class jazz department” at Rutgers and one of her professors, Kenny Barron, inspired in her a love of jazz singing, Bryson noted on her website.

She has also been greatly influenced by her parents, the songwriter Connie Bryson and the late jazz trumpeter-singer-composer Dizzy Gillespie.

For Gillespie’s 90th birthday in 2007 (he had died in 1993) Bryson created and performed a concert tribute, The Dizzy Songbook, which played at the Guinness Jazz Festival and toured.

Bryson had met Barron when he was playing piano in Gillespie’s band in the early 1960s. Their paths crossed again at Rutgers, when Bryson took his keyboard harmony class.

In an interview for the 2018 Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award, Bryson says that Livingston College was “my kind of place. It was a little more relaxed, a little more unorthodox … It was a really eclectic musical experience. You know, I ended up becoming a jazz singer, and of course the jazz department at Rutgers was also one of the best in this country and the world at the time.

“I got a great deal of wonderful listening experience, meeting musicians at school that ended up being, you know, really world-class players. They were my classmates so I got to play with them then and even as an adult I did records with some of the people that I went to school with. I couldn’t have picked a better place to go to school than Livingston.”

Bryson studied anthropology at Rutgers (and minored in ethnomusicology). She intended to go to law school, but was drawn to music, she noted in a 2008 interview with The Mercury of Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

“I really have no other skills aside from music,” Bryson told the music writer Ed Condran. “So it was kind of inevitable for me. I didn’t realize it until I was in my 20s. My parents did what they loved, which was music. It was my turn to do what I love, which is music as well. It runs in the family.”

Jeanie Bryson and Dizzy Gillespie She left her day job in 1987 to sing full time. In 1996, music writer Peter Watrous noted the “conversational level” of her performance at the Village Vanguard.

“She never raises her voice or adds details when clarity works better. And the effect is intimacy,” Watrous wrote in The New York Times. She has created a performance language rare in its ability to portray desire and humor as a part of everyday life.

Having performed and travelled extensively throughout North and South America, Europe, Israel and Japan, Bryson has received international acclaim. Along with being a guest vocalist on several outstanding recordings over the years, Bryson has multiple solo albums to her credit. 

Jeanie Bryson and Coleman MellettBryson’s relationship with Gillespie was complicated by the fact that he had fathered her out of wedlock, and didn’t acknowledge their relationship publicly although he supported her privately. In the 1980s Gillespie came to hear her sing in New York, where he reportedly said, “Man, she sounds just like me.” The saxophonist Stan Getz, who was also in the audience, said Bryson sounds more like the trumpeter Miles Davis, and she agrees.

“Our musical styles were about as different as they could be,” Bryson said in a 2018 interview with Fatherly. “My father’s trademark was playing faster and higher than any other trumpet player had ever played before. Nobody had ever heard anybody play like that. His lightning speed and his dexterity were in the stratosphere.

“My style is very dark. You couldn’t find anybody that would be any different than Dizzy’s and my voice.”

Bryson is working on a book about her memories with her father.

Bryson’s husband, the jazz guitarist, singer and songwriter Coleman (Coley) Mellett, died in a plane crash in 2009. He had been traveling north to play with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as a longtime member of the Chuck Mangione band. The loss of her husband was devastating — Mellett and Bryson had been together since 1996, when he became a member of her touring band. Their everyday lives and their musical careers were completely entwined — traveling the world together for years.

One way of keeping her husband’s memory and his legacy alive has been producing a documentary about Mellett and the original songs that were left behind — on his computer in his music studio — music that Grammy-award winning producer Barry Miles saw to it was finished with the contributions of some of the world’s most acclaimed musicians, including James Taylor, Chuck Mangione, and Michael McDonald.

The film, titled “Sing You a Brand New Song: The Words and Music of Coleman Mellett,” had its premiere at the New Jersey International Film Festival on June 8, 2019, at Rutgers. “Sing You a Brand New Song” was named as the festival’s best documentary film. Bryson and her co-producers also plan to release a companion CD.

Photos (from top): Courtesy of Jeanie Bryson; Album covers (clockwise from top left): “Deja Blue,” “Some Cats Know: Jeanie Bryson Sings Songs of Peggy Lee,” “I Love Being Here With You” and “Tonight I Need You So”; With Dizzy Gillespie; With Coleman Mellett in 2007.

Video: Bryson singing Irving Berlin’s Change Partners (4 minutes, 25 seconds).

Carlyle E. Shelton Jr., LC’80, Is Deputy Inspector General of the US Marine Corps; Honored as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2018

Carlyle E. Shelton Jr.Carlyle E. (Carl) Shelton Jr., a 1980 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and is currently the Deputy Inspector General of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) since January 2009.

Shelton and five other exceptional graduates of Livingston College were honored at an awards celebration on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at Rutgers.

During his course of studies at Livingston College, Shelton was nominated for a Congressional internship in Washington, D.C. He served as an Aide to Congressman Nicholas Mavroules (D-Mass.) from 1979-80. Upon graduation from Livingston College, Shelton was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the USMC in June 1980.

Shelton’s 30-year career as a Marine infantry officer spans 61 countries, two wars, the Los Angeles riots, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations at home and abroad. His vast array of assignments includes command at the platoon, company and battalion levels.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Carlyle E. Shelton Jr.He was a Detachment Commander aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (responsible for nuclear weapons security), Operations Officer for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine, a Special Operations designated Battalion Landing Team (BLT 3/1), Instructor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Head of Land Warfare at the Naval Doctrine Command, Commander of the Marine Scout Sniper School, Camp Lejeune, Security Battalion Commander, Camp Pendleton, and Director, Investigations and Assistance for the Inspector General of the Marine Corps, to mention a few of the assignments Shelton served with distinction.

Currently, Shelton is the most senior civilian authority within the Office of Inspector General of the Marine Corps (IGMC). The IGMC promotes Marine Corps combat readiness, institutional integrity, effectiveness, discipline and credibility, through impartial and independent inspections, assessments, inquiries, investigations and training. Shelton reports to the Secretary of the Navy for Marine Corps matters and assists the Commandant of the Marine Corps with his constitutional responsibility to organize, train and equip Marine forces for worldwide deployments.

Shelton’s functional duties includes the conduct of comprehensive unit inspections throughout the Marine Corps, oversight of all investigations of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and misconduct; to include investigations of senior ranking officials.

He maintains oversight of intelligence programs to include special access programs and other sensitive activities in support of national security missions conducted by naval forces.

Shelton had previously served as Director of Investigations and Assistance in the IGMC from September 2006 through January 2009, and is certified by the Association of Inspectors General.

His personal accolades include the Department of Defense Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (with four Gold Stars), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and numerous unit citations and medals.

Carlyle E. Shelton Jr. at Arlington National CemeteryHis civilian recognitions include the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for North County, California. He was also recognized by the Emergency Managers of Southern California for Department of Homeland Security, Advance Team Presidential Security, and numerous other recognitions.

At Livingston College he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. In 2003 he earned a master’s degree in National Security Strategy from National War College.

Photos courtesy of Carlyle E. Shelton Jr. Center: With former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bottom: Shelton, serving as the representative of the office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, presents a folded American flag to Jacqueline Mackin-Hartman, the daughter of retired Col. Alvin Mackin, at Arlington National Cemetery in 2010.

Distinguished Alumna Staci Berger, LC’94, Is an Activist Supporting Affordable Homes and Community Development

Staci BergerStaci Berger, a 1994 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, leads a statewide association which supports the creation of affordable homes and community development in New Jersey.

In 2018 the Livingston Alumni Association (LAA) honored Berger with the Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award, for her activism and work to advance justice. Berger and five other exceptional graduates of Livingston College were honored at an awards celebration on Tuesday, March 20 at Rutgers.

She received her master’s degree in Public Affairs and Politics from Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and Graduate School-New Brunswick in 2004. In 2017 the Bloustein School honored Berger with a Career Achievement Award.

In the 1993 Livingston College yearbook, Berger wrote: “In the year 2003, I will be working on the same things I am working for here at Livingston: justice and equality for all. Education, at Livingston and Rutgers, is just one issue I have spent my time here fighting for. The next ten years, and probably for the rest of my life, will be dedicated to people and their right to live free.”

In an interview for the 2018 Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award, Berger notes: “I graduated a little bit later than my incoming class. Twenty of us were suspended for taking over Bishop House in an effort to get the university to not increase tuition. We were disciplined both in the university and in the justice system for standing up for what we believed in. And that is integral to the Livingston experience.”

As the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (HCDNNJ), Berger directs this association of more than 150 community-based development organizations.

HCDNNJ was created in 1989 to enhance the efforts of these groups to create affordable homes and revitalize their communities, and to improve the climate for community development in New Jersey.

Staci Berger and Betty Chan in the Livingston College 1993 yearbookBefore becoming the President and CEO, Berger served as the Director of Advocacy and Policy. In this role she was responsible for leading the community development policy staff team, including working with the policy coordinator and field organizers, to broaden and mobilize support for the network’s public policy agenda.

Representing the HCDNNJ on Community Reinvestment Act Advisory Boards for both PNC Bank and Valley National Bank, and on TD Bank’s Leadership Council, Berger assists these institutions in meeting their community investment objectives.

She has made multiple appearances on national media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, and is a recognized expert on housing and community development issues sought by national, regional and local press.

Prior to joining the HCDNNJ, Berger worked for nine years with New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) where she went from being an organizer to the Political and Legislative Director. As the Political and Legislative Director, she devised and implemented political, legislative, and electoral strategy for the state’s largest nonprofit, non-partisan independent watchdog coalition. She continues to serve on the NJCA’s Board of Directors.

New Jersey Assemblyman Jerry Green with Staci BergerBerger serves on the Economic and Community Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and is a member of the Housing Advisory Council for the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.  

She additionally has served as an associate trainer for the Midwest Academy, a leading national training institute for the progressive movement, and worked as a labor organizer with the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute and the Health Professionals and Allied Employees/AFT/AFL-CIO.

Berger’s professional milestones and honors include:

  • Inaugural recipient of the Center for Non-Profits’ Emerging Leader Award in 2013.
  • Community Service Award from New Jersey Citizen Action in 2014.
  • Recognition as a Change Maker by the New Jersey General Assembly during Women’s History Month in 2016.
  • Career Achievement Award from Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Public Policy in 2017.
  • Golden Rose Award for Advocacy from the Rose House in 2017.

Berger, a Massachusetts native, lives with her husband and two sons in Piscataway, New Jersey, where she is involved in volunteer efforts to improve her own community and advance social, political and economic justice. She served as President of the Martin Luther King Intermediate Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) from 2012 to 2014, and continues to serve as the PTO Vice President of Conackamack Middle School.

Berger has been involved in multiple, successful electoral campaigns to make the Board of Education responsive to and reflective of the needs of the school community. She helped advance school policy changes to win smaller class sizes, secure food justice, and protect the rights of all students regardless of documentation status or gender identity.

In 2016, she led the founding of the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats, and ran a campaign to elect more than 100 area residents for office in June 2017.

Her efforts led to a civil rights victory in Piscataway. On December 19, 2017, the Piscataway Township Council attempted to keep Berger from videotaping a council meeting based on a township ordinance.

On December 27, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey advised the township that the law allows citizens to videotape meetings. Three days later the township announced that it would revise its ordinance to permit videorecording of its meetings, and in the interim would not enforce its old ordinance prohibiting such recordings.

Berger was a speaker at the 2017 New Jersey Congressional Reception, focusing on housing issues. She tells the audience: “We can’t just build homes, we have to also build movements. … Right now every single person needs to be involved in the fight for justice, because nobody else is going to do it for us … .” The conclusion of her speech was drowned out by applause.

Follow Staci Berger on Twitter.

Photos, from top: Courtesy of Staci Berger; With fellow student Betty Chan in the 1993 Livingston College yearbook, Diversity: A Higher Form of Education; With New Jersey Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Distinguished Alumnus Robert Snyder, LC’77, Is a Leading Historian of New York City; Learned ‘Tough-Minded Idealism’ at Livingston College

Robert W. SnyderRobert W. Snyder, a 1977 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, is a Professor of Journalism and American Studies at Rutgers-Newark. He writes widely on New York City history and journalism.

Snyder graduated from Livingston College with majors in History and Urban Communications (Journalism). He earned a doctorate in American History at New York University.

In 2018, the Livingston Alumni Association (LAA) honored Snyder with the Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award, for his work as a scholar and historian, and for his unflagging efforts to recognize and celebrate the history of Livingston College.

Snyder and five other exceptional graduates of Livingston College were honored at an awards celebration on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at Rutgers.

Robert W. SnyderHe has a very strong record of teaching, scholarship, journalism, museum work, and publication, and has received high recognition for the quality of his projects and his commitment. From 2000 to 2005 he served as director of the Journalism program in Rutgers-Newark’s Department of Arts, Culture and Media, and from 2009 to 2014 as director of the graduate program in American Studies.

In addition to teaching at Rutgers-Newark and elsewhere, Snyder has worked as journalist, a journal editor, and a documentarian. He has carried out projects with journalists, museum curators, and documentarians to share history with a broad public. He has written widely and lectured on New York City history, oral history, workers, the media, painting and the arts, and other topics.

He is the author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City; The Voice of the City: Vaudeville and Popular Culture in New York; and Transit Talk: New York’s Bus and Subway Workers Tell Their Stories.

He is the co-author of Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York, which won the Barr Prize of the College Art Association. With Rebecca Zurier, he co-curated an Ashcan Artists exhibit of the same name the exhibit at the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. He served as a consultant to the Museum of the City of New York for exhibits on the Spanish Civil War and New York City, the mayoralty of John V. Lindsay, and the cartoons of Denys Wortman. With the Newark Museum, he has developed educational programs for teachers and the general public.

Panelists Roger Cohen, Jim Simon and Rob Snyder Snyder wrote, produced and directed the documentary short City Kids Meet Ashcan Art, which won a Gold Apple from the National Educational Media Network. He directed the research for Ric Burns’ film New York and served as a consultant and interview source for National Public Radio’s Sonic Memorial project on September 11 and the World Trade Center, which won the Peabody Award.

Formerly the editor of Media Studies Journal, Snyder also worked at Channel 13/WNET, Newsday, the journalism review More, and the Tarrytown Daily News.

At Newsday he was a member of a special projects team that explored immigration and ethnic and racial diversity in New York City. Snyder also provided expert commentary about Depression-era New York City for the DVD version of Peter Jackson’s film “King Kong.”

Robert W. Snyder in his classroom at Rutgers University-NewarkHis reviews and articles have been published in scholarly journals such as the Journal of Urban History, Journal of American History, Journalism and Reviews in American History, and in general interest publications such as The New York Times, The Nation, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Jesuit magazine America, the Jewish Forward, and The Star-Ledger.

He has been interviewed by The New York Times, National Public Radio, WNJN, the History Channel, and the BBC on history, urban affairs, and media issues.

In 2015-2016 Snyder served as a Fulbright Scholar, teaching an American studies course called “America the Visual: Conflict, Diversity and Democracy in American Culture” at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea.

“This was a version of a course that I’ve experimented with at Rutgers–Newark,” Snyder said. “It examines visual expression in culture that look at conflicts. We look at how artists, photographers, TV producers, journalists have presented defining conflicts in American culture. Some of the most interesting sessions came from comparing Korean and American attitudes toward shared experiences.”

Snyder has remained active in the LAA and maintained strong connections with many students from his days on campus. Most important, he has remained committed to the ideals of the college. In later 2012 and early 2013 he recorded a three-part interview with the Rutgers Oral History Archives (ROHA), talking at great length about his experiences at Livingston College. At his 40-year Rutgers reunion, Snyder encouraged his classmates to contribute their stories to the ROHA as well.

And in 2010, he was one of the panelists at the LAA’s discussion on the history and impact of the Department of Journalism and Urban Communications and journalism programs at Livingston College and the School of Communication and Information.

As a journalism and history major in the 1970s, Snyder embodied the social action and justice aspects of Livingston’s mission. He was active in student politics as a leading reporter and editor on the Livingston Medium and gave a rousing speech on commencement day in the spring of 1977 where he encouraged students “to be proud” of their years at Livingston. When it came time to speak out and act to preserve’s Livingston’s mission in the face of changes at Rutgers University, Snyder worked tirelessly to convince the administration to preserve Livingston’s mission of social justice and inclusion. 

Snyder’s passion for Livingston burns deep to this day, highlighted by a blog article he wrote after attending an on-campus program dedicated to preserving Livingston’s history and impact on the overall Rutgers University community and the world.  Even though he went on to do graduate work at New York University and teach at Princeton University, Snyder remained loyal to Livingston College. He says it was at Livingston where he first actively engaged in politics and journalism in a way that helped chart a course for the rest of his life.

The college’s diverse population instilled in him a “tough-minded idealism” that he has carried with him since then. Livingston gave him exposure to people from all walks of life, an experience he would not have received at most other universities or even at the other campuses at Rutgers, most of which were generally more homogeneous.

In his book Crossing Broadway, Snyder writes that several factors played into the recovery of Washington Heights, including “local activists – overcoming both ethnic separation and the limitations of local economic resources – to collectively deliver Washington Heights from violence and decay.”

His colleague Jan Ellen Lewis, Dean of Faculty and Professor of History at Rutgers-Newark, praised Crossing Broadway as “a model of how a writer can incorporate personal reminiscences, family history, and scholarship into a work that is both accessible and valuable for scholars and a general audience. … I should also note that Rob’s service, scholarship, and teaching all inform each other, and it is impossible to draw sharp lines separating these categories.

“He is a citizen-scholar, not only one of the leading historians of New York City writing today, but also a major presence in public history, urban history, and American studies as well as the history of journalism.”

Photos, from top: Courtesy of Robert Snyder; From the 1977 Livingston College yearbook, The Rock; Panelists Roger Cohen, Jim Simon and Rob Snyder speaking on Livingston College’s journalism legacy in 2010; Snyder in his Rutgers-Newark classroom.

Distinguished Alumnus Everette Penn, LC’91, Is Transforming the Relationship Between Youth and Law Enforcement

Dr. Everette PennDr. Everette B. Penn, a 1991 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, is working to transform the relationship between youth and law enforcement. 

In 2018, the Livingston Alumni Association (LAA) honored Penn with the Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award, for his work as a scholar and advocate on issues of criminology, as well as race, youth and justice. Penn and five other exceptional graduates of Livingston College was honored at an awards celebration on Tuesday, March 20 at Rutgers.

In 2011, Penn co-founded the Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy in Houston, Texas, and continues to serve as its principal investigator. TAPS uses evidence-based results to reduce the social distance between youth, law enforcement and their communities.

Dr. Everette Penn with a Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy class in Columbus, OhioTAPS partners a cohort of youth with mentor police officers during an 11-week curriculum of pressing issues including: bullying, anger management, avoidance of gang life, drug usage, police interaction, conflict management and many other youth- and law enforcement-focused topics.

Through these interactive sessions, students gain valuable skills to manage life situations while both the youth and law enforcement officers build positive relationships.

TAPS has been implemented by communities throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in order to build trust, respect, and improve the personal safety of youth, law enforcement personnel and community members. 

Penn trains hundreds of police officers annually, applying 21st century policing practices. In 2016 he founded the TAPS Center, which has the mission to be the leader in research, training, teaching, and programming to reduce the social distance between youth and police.

The TAPS Academy was instrumental in the 2017 passage of Texas’ Community Safety Education Act of Texas, which requires all high school students, law enforcement officers and driver’s license applicants to receive training to improve interactions between citizens and law enforcement. Penn is a member of the law’s statewide implementation committee, which is being reviewed by several other states as a model.

Penn is currently writing the book Police and YOUth, which presents the importance of, and methods to achieve, better police and citizen (youth) relations.

Penn is a Professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL), where he teaches graduate-level courses in Race and Crime, and Criminology. He also has served as Social and Behavioral Sciences Division Chair at UHCL. In Houston, he has hosted podcasts and spoken on several panels for Houston Public Media, on community-police relations and “spending time with people who don’t look like us,” among other topics.

In 2005, he was named a Fulbright Professor of American Studies in Egypt. He previously served on the Board of Directors for the Fulbright Alumni Association and chaired its Diversity Task Force.

Everette PennPenn has authored dozens of publications on juvenile justice, race and crime, and homeland security.

Penn earned his doctorate in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Texas A&M University-Central Texas. His Livingston College degree is in political science.

At Livingston College, Penn joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and became an officer in May 1990. His unit was activated for Operation Desert Storm in fall 1990. That semester, he took 24 hours of coursework in order to join his unit for deployment. He went on to become a Quartermaster Officer, serving in various capacities during his military career.

Penn, as an undergraduate, often made long drives from his home of Washington, D.C., to Rutgers’ New Brunswick/Piscataway campus, noted Brian Butler, a retired Army officer who nominated Penn for the Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award.

“His interaction with law enforcement on the New Jersey Turnpike became so routine he would often leave early in order to accommodate time for the expected stop,” Butler wrote. “Through the various encounters he built a desire to study the interaction between Black males and law enforcement. … This interest to understand and reduce the social distance between youth and law enforcement inspires his work to direct the international organization of TAPS Academy.”

Dr. Everette Penn receives University of Houston-Clear Lake President's Award from UHCL President William A. StaplesPenn has served as a U.S. Army officer, and a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) as well as in various leadership positions in dozens of national, international and local organizations.

“I have known Dr. Penn for nearly 30 years and have watched him flourish both personally and professionally,” Butler wrote in his nomination. “He is a man of true character and purpose. I have watched him from afar and worked beside him.

“The TAPS Academy program he built is something special and has been a force of change in how youth and police interact in communities around our great nation and internationally. TAPS Academy changes lives. … Today he is one of the leading catalysts for constructive dialogue between youth and law enforcement and is a true champion for social justice.”

Photos, from top: Courtesy of Dr. Everette Penn; Penn with a TAPS Academy class in Columbus, Ohio; Speaking on the diversity of his hometown of Houston, Texas; Receiving the President’s Distinguished Service Award from William A. Staples, President of the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Distinguished Alumna Marie Varghese, LC’03, Helps College Students ‘Survive and Thrive’

Marie VargheseMarie Varghese, a 2003 graduate of Livingston College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, helps students, activists and others to “survive and thrive” through her mentorship and support. Inher writing, she explores the contours of immigrant family life, queer (in)visibility, spirit, grief and resilience.

In 2018 the Livingston Alumni Association (LAA) honored Varghese with the Livingston College Distinguished Alumni Award, for her work as an educator and activist. Varghese and five other exceptional graduates of Livingston College were honored at an awards celebration on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at Rutgers.

At Bronx Community College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY), Varghese is the Senior Advisor and Campus Trainer for the CUNY Start program.

Marie Varghese, 2003 CUNY Start is an intensive program for incoming college students who have earned a high school diploma or GED, and who need to increase their academic proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics prior to enrollment in college credit classes.

Varghese works with students to develop and implement individualized plans to succeed in their first year of college. While supporting students on campus, she focuses on three interdependent areas of college success: academic content, academic behaviors, and academic systems. 

Marie Varghese with friendsHer passion for college readiness stems from the support and guidance she received as an undergraduate at Livingston College. As the daughter of Indian immigrants, Varghese had no roadmap to college until she connected with professors, deans and student leaders who mentored her along the way.

At Rutgers, she was the President of the Student Action Union, served as a Resident Mentor for first-year students, became a Paul Robeson Scholar and was the recipient of the 2003 Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence.  


“Marie has made a direct impact on society by working closely with high school students, getting them fully prepared for not only college but life, teaching students problem-solving and self-advocacy,” according to her friend and fellow Livingston College alumna Alicia Piller, who nominated her for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Marie takes special interest in advising and guiding teens to make the best decisions for their life.

“She has been a guiding light not just for me but for all of those that she comes into contact with. Marie devotes herself to helping others in the community with unwavering selflessness,” Piller wrote in her nomination.

“Marie finds a way to not only help each individual, but tailors her advice to each specific person.”

After obtaining her master’s degree at Columbia University, Varghese became a college advisor at a high school in the South Bronx that serves newly arrived immigrants to the United States. 

In addition to her role at CUNY Start, she works as a consultant for the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, an organization designed to strengthen, empower, and equip young women as agents for change in their lives and in the world. 

Marie Varghese Varghese comes from a long line of storytellers. Her poem, “Rearranging the Bones,” was recently published in Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands in homage to Gloria Anzaldúa and her iconic work Borderlands/La Frontera. She is also an alumna of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, a national network for writers of color.

Photo, center (in front of Livingston College banner): From the 2003 Livingston College yearbook, Diversity: Roots of Knowledge. Other photos are courtesy of Marie Varghese.

Firefighter Kevin Apuzzio, LC’06, Gave His Life in the Line of Duty; Posthumously Honored as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2009

Kevin ApuzzioKevin Anthony Bernardo Apuzzio, a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT), died on April 11, 2006, in the line of duty while attempting to rescue a woman in a house fire. He was 21, and the woman, Betty Scott, was 75.

A month later, Rutgers University’s Livingston College posthumously awarded him a bachelor’s degree. Also in 2006, Apuzzio was presented posthumously with the Rutgers University Alumni Federation’s Edward J. Bloustein Award for Community Service.

In 2009 the Livingston Alumni Association honored Apuzzio as a Seth Dvorin Distinguished Young Alumnus.

Kevin Apuzzio, Firefighter with East Franklin Township Fire Department, Station 27At age 16, Apuzzio, a lifelong resident of Union, New Jersey, had trained to become an EMT. In 2002 he graduated from Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

Apuzzio had worked as a part-time EMT in Rutgers Department of Emergency Services for more than three years, and for about two years as a volunteer firefighter with the East Franklin Fire Department, Station 27, in Somerset, New Jersey, where he obtained his Firefighter 1 certification and was promoted to foreman.

Apuzzio, who had studied criminal justice at Rutgers, wanted to become a police officer in New York City. On the day of his death, his family received his police exam test results in the mail. Apuzzio achieved an almost perfect score of 99.6.

Kevin Apuzzio, Rutgers University Emergency Medical TechnicianA 2009 tribute video to Apuzzio (embedded on this page) interweaves recollections from his parents and from Dan Krushinski, East Franklin Fire Chief.

Joseph Apuzzio called his son a role model. “If he even knew you just a little bit, he’d do anything he could. … He volunteered for just about anything.”

At the fatal fire, Chief Krushinski said, Apuzzio answered the call and entered the burning house “without hesitation, without doubt in his mind.”

His father also remembers taking Kevin fishing: “The first time I took him fishing, I guess he was 6, maybe 7 years old. And he caught a trout, a good size trout, OK? So he drags the trout onto the shore, and I got to pick it up and he saw where the hook was and he got very upset. He said he didn’t want to hurt the trout.”

Krushinski remembered Apuzzio as “a gentleman and easy-going, but he wanted to help people.”

“I think if you drove down (Interstate) 287 and passed five people with flat tires, he probably would have stopped and helped all five people change their tires.”

In 2007, one year to the day after Apuzzio’s passing, members of the Rutgers community and the Apuzzio family gathered in the university’s Public Safety Building to honor him by renaming the training facility the Kevin Apuzzio Training Center.

“Kevin personified the best of Rutgers students: hard work, community involvement and a desire to help others,” said Richard L. McCormick, then president of Rutgers. “We use this training center to prepare public safety personnel to serve and protect our community. It is only fitting that it bear Kevin’s name.”

In December 2013, the voting members of the East Franklin Fire Company established the Kevin A. Apuzzio Memorial Foundation to provide funds and support to student firefighters following in Apuzzio’s footsteps of community service. In June 2014, the foundation officially incorporated as a New Jersey nonprofit corporation. Funds raised support the foundation’s mission to carry on Apuzzio’s legacy through scholarships and outreach programs.

On the 10th anniversary of his death in 2016, friends and family remembered Apuzzio, with the Union Township Committee and the Union County Sheriff presenting commemorative resolutions to his family.

Apuzzio was survived by his parents, Joseph and Marili, and a sister, Leila. He is buried at Mount Olive Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey.

Read more about Apuzzio:

  • An EMT and selfless hero who was devoted to others (The Star-Ledger, April 12, 2006)

  • A hero, a role model (Coverage of his funeral, April 19, 2006)

Watch the LAA’s interview and video tribute to Apuzzio (2 minutes, 32 seconds), embedded on this page, or open in a new window.

Photos courtesy of the Apuzzio family and the East Franklin Fire Department.

Distinguished Alumna Martha Nell Smith, LC’77, Is an Emily Dickinson Scholar and Author

Martha Nell SmithMartha Nell Smith (LC’77) is a scholar who has focused her career on the life and work of Emily Dickinson, on American poetry, and on feminist and queer theory and criticism.

In 2009 the Livingston Alumni Association (LAA) of Rutgers University honored Smith as a Distinguished Alumna. Smith additionally earned a Master of Arts (1982) and a Ph.D (1985), both in English, from Rutgers’ Graduate School-New Brunswick.

As of 2021, Smith is a Professor of English, Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, and Founding Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Her numerous print publications include five books on Dickinson:

  • Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (1992)

  • Martha Nell Smith (1977) - From the Livingston College yearbook Comic Power in Emily Dickinson, coauthored with Suzanne Juhasz and Cristanne Miller (1993)

  • Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Dickinson, coauthored with Ellen Louise Hart (1998)

  • A Companion to Emily Dickinson (2008), co-edited with Mary Loeffelholz

  • Emily Dickinson: A User’s Guide (2012, with a revised edition planned for publication in 2022)

Smith also has written more than 40 articles and essays in American Literature, Studies in the Literary Imagination, South Atlantic Quarterly, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Profils Americains, San Jose Studies, The Emily Dickinson Journal, and A Companion to Digital Humanities.

Smith was an early proponent of using technology to advance scholarship, and in 1994 she began the Dickinson Electronic Archives.

At the Digital Humanities 2009 conference, hosted by MITH, Smith said: “Content counts first, and we use the technology, the technology does not use us.”

“I am really interested in how we can import literary theory and philosophy and actually do something innovative in terms of knowledge-building. So as an editor I’m really interested in ways we can import social editing into scholarly editing.”

In 2010, Smith was named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland. In 2011 she was appointed ADVANCE Professor in the College of Arts and Humanities and in 2012 was appointed an ADVANCE Fellow.  In May 2011, Smith was voted Chair-Elect of the University of Maryland Senate, and became Chair for the 2012-2013 term.

Smith transferred to Livingston College from Rutgers College as a senior, taking 39 credits at Livingston in the 1976-1977 academic year. In a 2009 interview and profile for the Distinguished Alumni Award, Smith says: “I often refer to the year I was at Livingston as the year I learned more than anyplace else.

“That passion and that belief that learning is crucial, vital and important, I carry with me to this day.

“Be generous, follow your intellectual passion, not what is trending but follow what you really want to do, and specifically for Livingston, never forget the legacy of serious-minded politics. … Be great citizens, be fabulous students all throughout the rest of your life.”

Follow Martha Nell Smith on Twitter.

Watch the LAA’s interview and video tribute to Smith (3 minutes, 13 seconds), embedded on this page, or open in a new window.

Photos: (top) Courtesy of University of Maryland; (bottom) From the 1977 Livingston College yearbook, The Rock, Volume II.

Radio Journalist Marla Diamond, LC’92, Chronicles the Streets of New York; Honored as a Distinguished Alumna in 2009

Marla DiamondRadio journalist Marla Diamond (LC’92) has been a mainstay on the WCBS Newsradio 880 staff since 1997.

In 2009, the Livingston Alumni Association honored Diamond as a Distinguished Alumna.

Diamond joined WCBS as its New Jersey correspondent and currently covers New York City for the station.

Diamond’s radio career started at New Brunswick’s WCTC-AM 1450, where she served as a street reporter and anchor. She later served as morning anchor of WCTC’s sister station WMGQ-FM 98.3.

Bruce Johnson remembered Diamond coming to him as a college student seeking a radio news internship.

Marla Diamond (1992) - From the Livingston College yearbook“She seemed beyond her years as a college student, and I was struck by her immediately,” Johnson said in a 2009 interview for LAA’s tribute to Diamond.. “She … just did everything exceedingly well,” said Johnson, then the news and sports director for Greater Media New Jersey, which included WCTC, WMGQ and four other radio stations.

In another interview, Tim Scheld, director of news and programming at WCBS Newsradio, calls Diamond one of the station’s “best street reporters.”

“She’s not afraid to get down and dirty. She’s not afraid what alley she’s going to walk in,” Scheld said.

“She knows how to tell a story, and there aren’t that many people left in this world and in this business that can tell the story the way that the street reporters at CBS do.”

For about a year, Diamond worked as media director for a hospital but, as she writes on her WCBS profile page, found that radio was indeed her calling, and successfully “begged for my job back.”

“I have had the privilege to be a part of some of the city’s biggest breaking news stories,” Diamond writes. “I am often brought to tears by New Yorkers’ random acts of kindness and courage. But I really enjoy the offbeat, the people who give this city its pulse and craziness.”

Diamond has won numerous awards in her career at WCBS, including the Art Athens Award for General Excellence in radio reporting.

Watch the LAA’s interview and video tribute to Diamond (2 minutes, 24 seconds), embedded on this page, or open in a new window.

Follow Marla Diamond on Twitter.

Photos of Marla Diamond: (top) Courtesy of Diamond; (bottom) From the 1992 Livingston College yearbook, Diversity: A Style of Our Own, Volume Two.