Making history doesn’t matter much to Jean and Ric Edelman.
Making an impact—a tangible, lasting impact—does.
To that end, the Edelmans today pledged $25 million to preserve and expand the Rowan University Fossil Park in Mantua Township, N.J.
Their gift—the second largest in University history and the largest ever given to Rowan by alumni—will help transform STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education through one-of-a-kind, hands-on discovery and world-class research at the Fossil Park.
The park will be named the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University. Learn more about their gift here.
For more stories about Rowan, scroll down:
Rowan University Art Gallery Building Wins Design Award
Rowan and Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) Commit to Teacher Ed Pact
“We want our giving to have a measurable impact on people’s lives,” says Ric, a 1980 alumnus, who, with Jean, a 1981 alumna and University trustee, founded Edelman Financial Services in 1987. The company is one of the largest independent financial planning and investment management firms in the nation.
“It wasn’t our goal to donate $25 million to the University. Instead, our goal was to determine how much money it would take to create a world-class museum and learning experience at the Fossil Park, and that’s the amount it will take,” continues Ric, who has been ranked the No. 1 Independent Financial Adviser in the nation three times by Barron’s. He’s also a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and in August, Forbes ranked him among the Top 10 Wealth Advisers in America.
“We want the Fossil Park to be a world-class destination for families on the same scale as the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Franklin Institute.”
Ambitious plans for the Fossil Park include a state-of-the-art museum and visitor center, a fossil preparation lab that will reveal how scientists study fossils, a nature trail, a paleontology-themed playground, social spaces to accommodate special events and—most importantly—the opportunity for students and families to participate in paleontological digs at the site, helping scientists discover fossils from the dinosaur age.
Purchased by Rowan in January for $1.95 million, the 65-acre tract contains thousands of 65-million-year-old fossils from the Cretaceous Period—the heyday of the dinosaurs. Located behind a suburban shopping center, the former ancient sea floor was mined for nearly a century for its greensand (or marl) by the Inversand Company, which sold the sediment as an organic fertilizer and water treatment product. Since the 1920s, researchers have excavated fossils there as Inversand continued its work.
Last year, company officials announced they would end operations at the quarry within the year. Recognizing the value of the land as both a home to “citizen science” and as a world-class research site, Rowan purchased the tract, located just four miles from its Main Campus in Glassboro.
The Edelmans’ gift will help Rowan create a vibrant Fossil Park and educational opportunities of international caliber, says Rowan President Ali A. Houshmand.
“The Edelmans’ passion for sharing discovery and science will transform and expand Rowan’s capacity to educate for generations to come,” says Houshmand.
“Their vision and generosity will make it possible for tens of thousands of students, families and researchers to explore a range of hands-on sciences at a globally significant site—paleontology, of course, but also geology, biology, environmental science, and more. Visitors will be able to dig up the past and learn about the future of our world through many disciplines. The Edelman Fossil Park will be an international science center and a premier destination for our region.”
Researching the Cretaceous Period
Led by world-renowned paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, park director and founding dean of Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment, researchers at the Fossil Park are working millimeter by millimeter to carefully examine the fossils, sediments and geochemistry of the site to gain a clearer picture of the period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They’re investigating the idea that the fossils—sea turtles, sharks, boney fish, crocodiles, mosasaurs and dinosaurs, among them—represent a mass die-off of the animals that once lived there.
Lacovara’s team is trying to determine if the six-inch bone bed from the end of the Cretaceous Period is related to the mass extinction that wiped out the 165-million-year reign of the dinosaurs.
The Fossil Park also is the site of wildly popular “community dig days” during which children and families can search for the fossils of ancient sea creatures with their own hands, alongside researchers. Since 2012, nearly 15,000 visitors—some traveling from as far away as Michigan, Georgia, California and England—have connected with the Earth’s deep past by digging for fossils. Two thousand spots for the fifth annual Community Dig Day on Sept. 10 were filled up in 23 minutes when registration opened online.
The Edelmans are two dedicated alumni who generously share their time and talents with the institution, Houshmand notes. Their $25 million gift is the third largest to a public college or university in the state. Gifts to Rowan occupy three of the five top spots on that list and include the landmark $100 million gift from Henry and Betty Rowan in 1992, the Edelmans’ gift, and $15 million from the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation in 2014.
“A $25 million gift is special no matter how you look at it, but it is especially meaningful when individuals give so generously to their alma mater,” Houshmand says. “This gift speaks to the Edelmans’ experiences as students here, the impact that our faculty and staff had on them then and today, and the trust that they have in us to be good stewards of their investment.
“We could not feel more honored, and we promise to make them even more proud of their alma mater.”
For the Edelmans, the Fossil Park is a prudent investment, Ric says.
“We’re particularly excited about the vision, commitment, enthusiasm, and hard work” that have helped build the institution, he notes. “Rowan is entirely deserving of our financial support. We hope other alumni will demonstrate their support as well.”
‘We’re fulfilling a dream of his—and a dream of ours’
For years, the Edelmans have earmarked science and science education as key areas of their philanthropy.
In 2002, they gave $1 million to establish the Edelman Fund in support of Rowan’s planetarium, which bears their name. In 2006, they established a program that allows elementary schools to bring students to the facility—free of charge—to experience astronomy programs that enhance their classroom work. To date, nearly 60,000 individuals have attended shows at the Edelman Planetarium—the largest in South Jersey. Annually, more than 6,000 K-12 students learn about the solar system, space and beyond at Rowan’s facility.
In 2010, the couple donated more than $240,000 to fund the instrumentation for a full-dome digital projection system at the planetarium to ensure that the facility remains a leader in astronomy education.
Maintaining—and expanding—the public’s opportunity to experience the thrill of scientific discovery through Dig Days is crucial to the Fossil Park’s future, the Edelmans agree.
“The Fossil Park has the ability to provide access to science for children of all ages. There’s nothing better than hands-on science,” says Jean. “We want people to make the Fossil Park, the planetarium and the University a destination.”
“The Fossil Park is bringing families together. To provide those opportunities is absolutely priceless,” she adds. Jean rejoined Rowan’s Board of Trustees in 2014 after serving from 2008-’12.
When Lacovara gave a presentation on the park before the trustees, board members immediately saw purchasing the site as a wise investment, she notes. Their gift builds on that, she adds.
“Ken gave a wonderful presentation. Everybody loved the idea,” says Jean, noting that Lacovara is also a 1984 Rowan alumnus. “We’re fulfilling a dream of his—and a dream of ours. We’re excited to be a part of it.”
The Edelmans’ support for the Fossil Park is monumental scientifically and educationally, says Lacovara.
“We believe the site, scientifically, to be of global significance. The generous gift from the Edelmans will allow us to pursue this scientific story using the best techniques and in the most complete way,” says Lacovara, who applies the latest technologies to study fossils, including 3D laser scanning, CT scanning, 3D printing, robotics and techniques from medical modeling and molecular biology.
Lacovara is known internationally for his discovery of the massive plant-eating dinosaur Dreadnoughtus schrani. Found in Patagonia, Dreadnoughtus is the best example found of any of the largest creatures ever to walk the planet and is the most complete skeleton of its type unearthed.
Bringing science to the citizenry is a key component of the park’s mission and something the Edelmans embrace, adds Lacovara.
“We believe hands-on experiential education is one of the most powerful ways to change people’s lives,” he says. “The Edelmans want to help people learn and explore, and to help people improve their lives by providing pathways to success. Their vision is our vision. Their heart is in this.”
A commitment to Rowan
In addition to their philanthropic gifts to Rowan, the Edelmans have been active University supporters, giving of their time and expertise.
In 1994, they each received the Rowan Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, which honors graduates who have brought credit to the institution through personal and professional accomplishments and humanitarianism.
Ric, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications, was the keynote speaker at the University’s 1999 Commencement ceremony, where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. In 2007, he was inducted into the Rowan University Public Relations Student Society of America Hall of Fame. He serves as a member of the advisory board for the College of Communication & Creative Arts. He is the first to be named Distinguished Lecturer for the University.
Jean, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Consumer Economics and Marketing, with a minor in Nutrition, holds the distinction of being the first female president of the University’s Student Government Association. She also was named Distinguished Senior, the University’s highest student honor. Currently chair of the academic affairs/student affairs committee on the University’s Board of Trustees, she was the speaker for the 2013 Graduate School Commencement.
Rowan’s growth has been extraordinary, she says.
“When we were students, Glassboro State College was a sleepy little college. It’s quite remarkable how far we’ve come,” she notes.
Rowan University Art Gallery Building Wins Design Award
A scant three years ago, 301 W. High Street was an eyesore, an unfinished, abandoned townhouse project, empty, cold and foreboding at the edge of campus.
Today, it is an award winner.
The property, home to the Rowan University Art Gallery and the Department of Public Relations & Advertising within the College of Communication & Creative Arts, has won a prestigious design award, Outstanding Project 2016 from Learning by Design, an architecture magazine.
“301 W. High Street is a wonderful example of adaptive re-use,” said Donald Moore, senior vice president for facilities and operations.
Initially designed to contain five large townhouse units, construction of the building by a private developer started in 2006 but stalled. Rowan bought the vacant property in 2013 for $440,000 and spent more than $6 million redesigning and reconstructing it.
Rowan in September 2015 formally opened the new facility, a three-story, 17,000 square-foot structure with the gallery on the first floor and classrooms, offices, computer labs and student lounges on the floors above.
Among the building’s most striking features is a wall of glass that rises from street level above the roofline and showcases the building’s stairwell. The stairwell is lighted at night, as is a distinctive Rowan torch emblem on the building’s High Street side that, taken together, adds to the borough’s developing cityscape and helps build a sense of place.
“It serves as a kind of beacon,” Moore said. “We wanted the building itself to be something of a work of art and I think we accomplished that. The other thing we wanted was for it to be easily accessible, both to students and the general public.”
The building, completely redesigned by SOSH Architects of Atlantic City, was recognized by Learning by Design in its Fall 2016 issue. Published twice a year with features on educational architecture, the magazine included 301 W. High Street among 10 “outstanding” college or university projects.
The building serves as an anchor on the west end of a budding Arts & Entertainment district. The east end is anchored by Let’s Dance Studio near the Glassboro Post Office and an outdoor art space was created in the just-opened Town Square at High and Main streets as part of the $350 million Rowan Boulevard project.
In addition to the Learning by Design award, Moore said a recent landscape redesign featuring seasonal plantings and discreet wastewater management around Linden and Memorial halls won an award from the Society for College and University Planning International.
The awards are significant because they reflect the special attention being paid, often at great cost, to building and property aesthetics throughout the University. Examples include the recently-opened Holly Pointe Commons residence hall, the renovated Camden Campus Academic Building and new buildings for the Rohrer College of Business and the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, both of which will open in January.
“A facility can in fact be a refuge, it can have an impact on people,” Moore said. “The fact is that poorly designed facilities are not inspiring to students. As we touch people on and about our campuses, part of our job is to make sure the environment is inspiring.”
Rowan and Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) Commit to Teacher Ed Pact
Officials from Rowan College at Gloucester County’s (RCGC) Liberal Arts Division and Rowan University’s College of Education met on RCGC’s campus on Nov. 9 to sign a Memorandum of Agreement that will benefit future teachers seeking to transfer to the University.
“By developing a formal Memorandum of Agreement between RCGC and the Rowan University College of Education, we are living out our commitment to addressing issues of access and affordability,” said Rowan College of Education Dean Monika Williams Shealey.
“Together we are creating a more seamless pathway to our professional teacher education program. This agreement benefits our teacher candidates and the communities they will serve.”
Prior to the signing, English Professor Charles Harkins— a longtime education advocate for the teaching profession— addressed the audience. A graduate of Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), Harkins joined Gloucester County College (now RCGC) in 1970. In 1999, he lead a team of educators that developed and launched RCGC’s innovative Teachers 2000 (T2K) program, a program which sought to create a more comprehensive approach to educating future teachers. Students in the T2K program took pre-selected courses specifically designed for education majors and taught by professors with the goal to better prepare future educators. This immersion created a learning community where students were surrounded by those who shared their goals.
“We always hear from students — especially those entering the field of education — how teachers affected them,” said an emotional Harkins as he addressed the crowd of education majors, many of whom were students in his classes. “I’ve been doing this for 53 years, and it’s the students who have affected me. All of you have inspired me to work towards a better path to a career in education so that you can go out and inspire future generations.”
The new agreement builds upon the success of the T2K program, but goes one step further, providing specific courses to match the curriculum of RCGC education majors to the courses taken by Rowan University freshmen and sophomores. These changes will prepare RCGC students for a seamless transfer to the University, giving them a distinct advantage over other students in the state. If an RCGC education major participating in the program meets all educational requirements, they will be guaranteed admission to Rowan’s Early Childhood Education or Elementary Education programs.
“As we sign this memorandum today, it symbolizes the commitment we make to students who have decided to become educators,” said Dr. Stacey Leftwich, executive director of Educator Support and Partnerships at Rowan. “The College of Education prides itself on providing access, success, and equity.
“This memorandum signing today signifies the access to the oldest college on Rowan University’s campus. The mentoring that your students will receive through their Teacher Education Program will support their success in and outside the classroom at Rowan University as well as the classroom they visit while out in the field. The final element, equity, is the college’s commitment to assist teacher candidates to be reflective practitioners who use education to transform our global society.”
In addition to setting up education majors for a smooth transfer into Rowan and other four-year institutions, this new program will better prepare students for Praxis Core testing. According to Harkins, currently about 70 percent of education majors nationally fail the Praxis on their first attempt, which is divided into three sections: language/writing, reading and mathematics. The Praxis section most difficult for students to pass is mathematics. For the College’s new program, Harkins worked closely with RCGC’s STEM Division to design a math course specifically for education majors to prepare them to successfully pass the test.
The agreement signing took place against a backdrop of enthusiastic RCGC education majors, eager to pursue their career path at Rowan University. One such student —Stephanie Verna, a second-year education major from Mullica Hill — had nothing but praise for the program and those who worked to make it a reality: “It’s the perfect program for me. I’m saving money. I’m learning so much and I can’t wait to transfer to Rowan University. Professor Harkins has been an incredible mentor. He and my advisor, Mr. Rey, have worked so hard to get me to where I want to be.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Nick Painter, a second-year education major from Woodstown, who is looking forward to a career as an elementary or middle school special education teacher: “I loved going to school. I can’t imagine doing anything else when it comes to a career.”
For more information about the Teacher Education Program, visit RCGC.edu/LiberalArts.
Categories: Public 4-Year Schools