Celebrating 100 years: College of Education honors three alumni at Centennial soiree

Celebrating 100 years: College of Education honors three alumni at Centennial soiree

Megan McHugh M'15 (at left) and Sarah Olsen M'14, both alumni of the College of Education, were among more than 325 graduates and friends who came together to celebrate the college's Centennial. Rowan was founded as a normal school to train teachers for South Jersey schools. McHugh serves on the Alumni Association's Board of Directors.

Their family legacy of teaching in South Jersey spans more than eight decades.

So it was apropos that Rae and Charles Walzer Jr. were among more than 325 alumni and friends of Rowan University’s College of Education who gathered to mark the college’s 100th anniversary on March 23.

“Every one of you has contributed to the story of our college,” Dean Gaëtane Jean-Marie said to guests who packed the Eynon Ballroom of the Chamberlain Student Center for the Centennial soiree. “Every one of you shares in our long, proud legacy of educational excellence.

“As we celebrate this evening, we also invite you to join us in this important work…for we know what being an educator—and an educational leader—is not just a job. It’s who you are. Being an educator is in your soul. It something that never leaves you.”

That’s a fact, Charles Walzer said. His mother, Helen Heventhal Walzer, graduated in 1929 from the institution, then known as the New Jersey State Normal School at Glassboro. She taught fifth grade for 41 years in Pitman.

“I have a long background in education because of my mother,” said Charles, who earned his master’s degree in 1972 from then-Glassboro State College and taught middle school science for 36 years in Oldmans Township. Rae, who earned her degree in 1973 and was recently recognized as a 2024 Salem County Woman of Achievement, taught for five years in Alloway.

“Teaching is a calling,” said Charles, who retired in 2010.

“You can really see the impact you can have,” Rae added.

Rowan’s foundation

Rowan University was established in 1923 as a normal school to train teachers for South Jersey schools, making the College of Education the foundation of the institution. It’s a mantle the college carries with pride, Jean-Marie said.

While the college boasts more than 41,000 alumni, nearly 6,000 College of Education graduates currently teach in New Jersey’s 21 counties, the dean said.

“Those are big, impactful numbers,” Jean-Marie said, noting, that by a conservative estimate, 150,000 schoolchildren annually are taught by graduates of the college.

“That’s $1.5 million children directly impacted by Rowan graduates over just a 10-year span.”

Impact was, indeed, the theme of the evening as the University honored three alumni for their extraordinary contributions to the college and the University.

The honorees shared their stories on video. As they accepted their awards from Jean-Marie, President Ali A. Houshmand and Provost Tony Lowman, they received long standing ovations from the audience in heartfelt appreciation of their accomplishments and service. The president and provost also offered words of congratulations and gratitude.

Thomas M. Gallia, Award for Community Engagement

Thomas M. Gallia ’66 M’67 M’70, whose storied career with the University spans 62 years, received the Award for University Engagement in recognition of his loyalty and commitment to Rowan aimed at advancing the mission of the College of Education. The award “embodies what it means to be an education champion,” Jean-Marie said.

Formerly chief of staff, senior adviser to the president and vice president of University Relations, Gallia has served on Rowan’s Board of Trustees since 2015. He’s also an inaugural member of the College of Education’s Advisory Board.

Gallia noted that a host of people, from presidents to administrators to faculty members to community leaders, have had a profound influence on his career, the college and the University.

“The College of Education is a family,” Gallia said, adding that members of that family “function as stewards for our sacred values, passing them on to our students. They, in turn, pass them on to their students.”

Alvin M. Herron, Award for Community Service

Alvin Herron ’08 M’17 accepted the Award for Community Service in recognition of his impactful contributions that have brought about positive change within the community.

While pursuing his master’s degree in school administration, Herron, who also holds a degree in history from Rowan, became a mentor for Project IMPACT (Increasing Male Practitioners and Classroom Teachers). The goal of the program is to increase the number of males from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds to become teachers.

Herron, a U.S. Navy veteran who is the head teacher at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, has mentored multiple IMPACT scholars and today serves as the program’s lead mentor and on its steering committee. He helps recruit students to the program and presents at professional conferences about the need for men of color to join the teaching profession.

“I absolutely love what I do,” said Herron. “It’s such a humbling job and experience for me. I’m thankful to Rowan University, the history department and the College of Education for giving me a wonderful start to my career.”

Keisha Stephenson-Taylor, ’98 M’00, Award for Outstanding Achievement

Keisha Stephenson-Taylor ’98 M’00 accepted the Award for Outstanding Achievement, which is given to an alum who has achieved remarkable success in the field of education, excelling professionally, while, also, bringing notable recognition to Rowan, the region and beyond.

Senior director of alumni and postsecondary engagement for NAF, a national education non-profit that addresses economic and social disparities by bringing schools and businesses together to better prepare students for college, career and future success, Stephenson-Taylor serves on numerous boards that support education, including the College of Education’s Advisory Board.

“The world of education is changing rapidly and when I think about outstanding achievement, there is so much that we have to do to improve the lives of young people across the country and, of course, in the great state of New Jersey,” said Stephenson-Taylor, a first-generation American.

“An education will totally change the trajectory of your life. This achievement, to me, means there’s more to do. I’m excited to keep working and moving the world of education forward.”

Also at the celebration, Assemblywoman Heather Simmons presented a joint legislative citation recognizing the honorees.