Skip to News / Media site navigationSkip to main content

Distinguished Citizens Award Dinner Raises More Than $200,000 for Ramapo College Scholarships, Programs and Research

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)March 9, 2005

(Mahwah) – The Ramapo College Foundation’s 2005 Distinguished Citizens Award Dinner, held Saturday, March 5 at the Rockleigh Country Club, raised more than $200,000 for scholarships, programs and research, while honoring four distinguished citizens for their leadership and commitment to higher education: Kenneth T. Neilson, president, Hudson United Bancorp and Hudson United Bank; Joseph R. Nothwang, executive vice president, Hertz Corporation and president, Vehicle Rental and Leasing for the Americas and Pacific; Debra M. Perry,’85, partner at the law firm of McCarter & English, LLP; and Tom Purves, chairman and CEO, BMW US Holding Corp.

Following the presentation of the honorees, President-elect Peter Philip Mercer was introduced to the 450 guests. Dr. Mercer was selected in February by the Board of Trustees to become Ramapo College’s fourth president, effective July 1. The program also included remarks by Interim President W. Sanborn Pfeiffer, Vice President Cathleen Davey, student Joe Tropia, and Thomas O. McGurn, chair of the Distinguished Citizens Dinner Committee.

Entertainment for the gala was provided by The Happenings, who exploded onto the national charts in May of 1966 with their first single, See You In September. Recently, Entertainment Magazine listed See You In September in the top 100 summer songs of all time. The Happenings continued as a major force in the music industry, releasing other hits including Go Away Little Girl and a successful album, They shared the stage with music giants such as The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, John Denver, The Drifters and The Kingston Trio. Additional entertainment for the evening featured the dance band Soiree.

The annual benefit dinner raises funds for student scholarships, College programs and faculty research.

Biographical Information About the Honorees

Kenneth T. Neilson has served as president of Hudson United Bancorp and Hudson United Bank since September 1989. He was named chairman of the board in 1996. Prior to joining Hudson United, Neilson was with The Summit Bancorporation and American National Bank. He is past chairman of both the NJ Bankers Association and the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. He is currently a member of the Executive Committee and Convention Committee of the NJ Bankers Association, the Nominating Committee of the Northern NJ Council of the Boys Scouts of America, and the Board of Governors of the Ramapo College Foundation. In addition, he is active with Habitat for Humanity.

Joseph R. Nothwang is executive vice president of the Hertz Corporation and president of Vehicle Rental and Leasing for the Americas and Pacific. Nothwang is based at Hertz Worldwide Headquarters. He has held a variety of top management positions since joining the Hertz Corporation in 1976, including division vice president for its West Central Region, based in Denver, Colorado. Nothwang serves as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, co-chairs the Parents Council at Skidmore College, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Ramapo College Foundation’s Board of Governors.

Debra M. Perry, Esq. is a 1985 graduate of Ramapo College and a partner at McCarter & English, LLP. Her practice focuses primarily in the areas of pharmaceutical products liability litigation and the coordination of mass tort products liability litigation. She also specializes in appellate practice in the state and federal courts. Perry regularly appears in state and federal courts around the nation, addressing issues involving scientific and medical causation, exposure, and the application of statues of limitations and damages. She has been involved in the development of national litigation strategies for the defense of product liability claims in both the mass tort and pharmaceutical products liability context. Perry regularly appears in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate part, specializing in complex guardianship and estate matters.

Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW US Holding Corp., is responsible for the BMW Group’s sales and marketing activities for BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce in North and South America. He joined BMW in 1985 and has served in a variety of management positions including managing director of BMW Great Britain Ltd. Prior to his arrival in the U.S., he was a Rover board member, overseeing the global sales and marketing for Land Rover, MINI, MG and Rover brands. Purves began his automotive career with Rolls-Royce Ltd. Car Division. Automotive News named Purves an Automotive All Star.” He is chairman of the board of directors of the Automotive Youth Educational Systems Inc. (AYES).


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per

Ramapo College provides its students with individualized attention, mentorship, and supports; hands-on learning; and a range of opportunities for service and leadership development. Its graduation and retention rates exceed national averages and it places approximately 1,000 students per year in internships in New York City. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice; is recognized as the state’s top college on the list of Best Disability Schools by Great Value Colleges; is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools; and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others.  

Ramapo College’s over 40,000 alumni are the confident, intellectually curious, self-aware, and humble people who are highly sought after and who make a positive impact at local, national, and global levels.  Ramapo College is distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by Every student at Ramapo is enrolled in its unique and award winning Pathways Program which equips and empowers students, across the continuum of their academic career, to secure internships, pursue graduate/professional school, and/or enter the job market. 

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


Press Release Archives

| 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 |