Thomas Edison State University (TESU) Foundation held its 28th Annual Grande Ball at Jasna Polana in Princeton, N.J., on Oct. 26.
More than 200 guests were in attendance to celebrate the University’s legacy of delivering flexible programs that meet the changing needs of adult learners and their employers.
Among the celebrants were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and first lady Tammy Snyder Murphy, marking the first time a sitting governor has attended the signature event aimed at raising funds in support of the critical needs of the University.
Each year during the event, the TESU Foundation presents the Spirit of Edison Awards, intended to recognize community leaders and alumni whose creativity, commitment to innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and concern for public good continue to fuel the institution’s success. Jeffrey Stokes, BS ‘15, senior director of Power Generation at PSEG, U.S. Navy veteran and TESU Foundation Board Member received the Spirit of Edison Distinguished Alumnus Award.
In accepting the award, Stokes, a 2015 graduate of TESU, described the transformative power of his degree. “I have a passion for what’s happened to me; I have a passion for higher learning; I have a passion for doing the work of the Foundation because of how my education has changed me,” said Stokes. “When I attend Commencement every year I love listening to fellow grads tell their stories and what motivated them to earn their degree….The work that the Foundation does is amazing and I could not have earned my degree without PSEG and its support.”
During the evening’s program, Dr. Merodie Hancock, president of the university, spoke about her commitment to serving adult students and her gratitude to those being honored. She lauded Stokes for serving as an outstanding example of what TESU strives to accomplish for every student who puts their trust and resources in the institution. “For every dollar spent earning a degree – the outcome must match the investment, and you have experienced that firsthand,” she said.
Gov. Murphy presented the Community Leader Award to Dr. Ralph Izzo, chairman of the board, president and CEO of PSEG. On the institution’s synergetic relationship with its educational and community partner, Hancock commented, “When I met Ralph Izzo, I was inspired by his desire to invest in all of his employees at all levels. Leveraging our core strengths, we are collaborating together to build pathways for underrepresented minorities and women to grow into positions of leadership and influence...PSEG has been a true partner-leader with Thomas Edison in this arena and in supporting and hiring our active-duty military and veterans. As organizations, we gauge our own health based on the health of the communities we serve, and we both believe in the power of education to develop an inclusive workforce that is strengthened by diverse perspectives and lifelong learning.”
Others who presided, presented or were honored during the event included Dr. Michael Toscani, TESU Foundation Board chair and research professor and director for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, who made the opening remarks; Delores “Dee” Kelley, Esq., Gala Committee chair, Stark & Stark; Randy Mehrberg, partner, Jenner & Block, who introduced the Distinguished Alumnus Award; and John P. Thurber, vice president of Public Affairs and executive vice president of TESU Foundation.
The TESU Foundation thanked the 2019 Gala Committee and the generous sponsors, program advertisers, attendees and donors who supported the event and helped make it a success. “The Gala is an acknowledgment of the indispensable nature of our work in creating opportunities for adult students and our community partners who support our work and our students’ success,” said Hancock. Sponsors of the event included PSEG, Wells Fargo, NJM Insurance Group, Capital Health, PNC, Stark & Stark, Bernie and Ann Flynn, GE Power, RWJBarnabas Health, Republic Bank, The Bank of Princeton, St. Francis Medical Center and Waters & Bugbee.
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