Rowan alumni: Making the University proud all year, every year

Rowan alumni: Making the University proud all year, every year


Success comes in all forms, and Rowan University alumni prove it every day and every year.

With each successive graduating class, Rowan alumni head out into the world and make their alma mater proud.

Each year Rowan recognizes several groups of alumni, from those who are charging ahead but just starting out to those capping rich, rewarding careers.

In 2016, Rowan recognized six such alumni: William J. Castner and Dr. Ira Monka as Distinguished Alumni at Commencement in May; Robert Belle Jr. and Joseph Renzulli, who received Lifetime Service awards at the Golden Years Reunion in June; Linette Rivera-Rodriguez, who was Rowan’s Young Alumna honoree during the President’s Welcome in September; and Kathleen Davis, who served as the University’s Homecoming Ambassador in October.


Distinguished Alumni

Dr. Monka is a 1984 graduate of the School of Osteopathic Medicine. In addition to his medical degree, he earned a master’s degree in Health Administration from A. T. Still University and completed a Health Policy Fellowship at the American Osteopathic Society’s University of Osteopathic Medicine. He is chairman and CEO of the Medical Institute of New Jersey, P.C., in Cedar Knolls, chairman of Atlantic Health Systems ACO and the medical director of CareOne, a senior care facility in Hanover Township.

Castner is a 1995 Rowan graduate who serves as senior vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ). Prior to joining BCBSNJ's leadership team in 2015, he was chair of government affairs at Gibbons P.C. law firm, which has offices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, where he worked in government affairs, corporate compliance, ethics, regulatory affairs, and health care law. After earning his bachelor of science degree at Rowan, Castner went on to earn an M.S. from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, and a J.D. from the Rutgers School of Law – Camden.


Homecoming Ambassador

Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce Southern N.J., graduated then-Glassboro State College in 1981 with a degree in law and justice and has been involved with the university in various ways since then, activity that led to her honor as Homecoming Ambassador during the 2016 Homecoming celebration.

“My education at Rowan continues to benefit me, and it’s something I’m very proud of,” she said. “My connection with Rowan has continued from the time I graduated until today.”

Davis, who has completed her 21st year of service with the Chamber, said the relationship between Rowan and the business organization is strong. Several of her colleagues graduated from Rowan and President Ali Houshmand serves on the Chamber’s board, she said.

As for the University’s dramatic growth since she graduated, Davis said she’s astounded.

“It’s something we’re so proud of in southern New Jersey,” she said. “One of the biggest, most important things to the business community is the education of young professionals and Rowan does such a great job.”


Lifetime Service Awards

Both graduates of Glassboro State Teachers College in 1958, Belle and Renzulli have enjoyed remarkable careers as educators.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Belle earned a master’s degree in pupil personnel services from Seton Hall and a doctorate in counseling education from Lehigh University. During his highly accomplished career he taught from the elementary to collegiate level and has been a distinguished administrator.

After graduating GSTC, Renzulli earned his master’s in education at Rutgers and his doctorate at the University of Virginia.

He’s a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut where, during his celebrated career, Renzulli was named a Fellow in the American Psychological Association and a consultant to the White House Task Force on Education of the Gifted and Talented.

Renzulli received the 2009 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Award for Innovation in Education, which is among the greatest honors for educators, and was named one of the 25 most influential psychologists by the American Psychological Association.

“Rowan’s Lifetime Service Award was very meaningful to me because it reminded me of the lifelong influence the school has had on my life and continues to have,” said Renzulli, who is also director of the Neag Center For Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut.



Young Alumna

A 2011 Rowan graduate but already a trailblazer, Rodriguez is a sergeant in the New Jersey Army National Guard.

An alumna of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Rodriguez made history in 2015 when she graduated from the Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. One of only two female combat engineers, she was among the first women in the Army to earn the 12B combat arms military occupational specialty, a designation that led to a removal of gender-based military restrictions so women may serve alongside men in combat.

As Rowan’s Distinguished Young Alumna 2016, Rodriguez addressed the incoming Class of 2020 during the President’s Welcome and Picnic Aug. 22 on University Green.

During her address she noted that, as a full-time working single mother, undergraduate studies brought additional challenges but she credited faculty, friends and staff at Rowan with helping her succeed.

“The best lesson I learned at Rowan University wasn’t in a specific classroom or course,” she told the assembled students, many of them fanning themselves in the late summer sun, not sure what will come next.

That lesson, she continued, was reinforced time and again, “through voices and behaviors demonstrated throughout my time here. The message was always ‘don’t quit.’ And I didn’t.”