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Ramapo College Dedicates Topken World Language Lab

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)April 19, 2018

[L-R]: Ryan Topken (grandson of Marina and William Topken and Ramapo College student), President Peter P. Mercer, William Topken, Marina Topken '87, SSHGS Dean Susan Hangen at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the World Language Lab.

Funding for state-of-the-art facility is gift from Mahwah couple

MAHWAH, N.J. — Ramapo College of New Jersey recently celebrated the opening of the Topken World Language Lab in the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies. The state-of-the-art language lab was made possible by a generous gift from William and Marina Topken ’87 to the Ramapo College Foundation. Dozens of students, faculty, staff and friends of the College attended the ceremony, which included a demonstration of the lab’s resources.

“Language conveys thought and is indispensable in what we do as a liberal arts college,” said Ramapo President Peter P. Mercer. “It is vital to our curriculum; without it, we cannot function efficiently. I am most grateful to Marina and Bill, longtime generous supporters of the College, for helping to bring this capital project to fruition as well as establish an endowment for language tutors.”

Susan Hangen, Dean of the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies (SSHGS), related that the new lab will provide students access to state-of-the-art language software, an increased number of language tutor hours, and a specially-designed space for optimum language learning.

“Language learning is the heart of a liberal arts education,” said Hangen. “This lab will have a significant impact for all of our students in an increasingly global world.”

She added that the new facility’s design—with circular work spaces–will emphasize group interaction. In addition, SSHGS will be adding Chinese to its language offerings. She also said the College is looking to relaunch Japanese, German and Arabic language studies into its curriculum.

“The very generous gift from the Topkens is consistent with our mission and demonstrates a commitment to international, intercultural and experiential learning for our students,” Hangen added.

“The Topkens’ commitment to assist our students who academically achieve and have financial need is most amazing. They have established several endowed scholarships to support students in the teacher education program as well as in both the ungraduated and graduate nursing programs,” explained Institutional Advancement Vice President Cathleen Davey. “Marina’s and Bill’s commitment goes well beyond their personal philanthropy. Both have volunteered for more than 25 years to raise scholarship funds through their leadership with The Friends of Ramapo. During this time, Marina has served as Friends’ president and Bill as treasurer, the group has awarded more than 150 scholarships, 25 of which have been full scholarships.”

Marina, an American Studies 1987 graduate of the College, taught and translated German at several language institutions in the area and tutored children in under-served schools in Paterson, New Jersey. She frequently returns to Ramapo to participate in the German language “happy hours” offered for students and staff throughout the school year.

“Education has always been of great interest to me.  When our children were teenagers, I will never forget the day eagerly I registered to take a course in French Language at Ramapo College.  More courses in French language, literature and culture followed, and my respect and enthusiasm grew for inspiring, unforgettable professors as well as for students from all walks of life and from many countries, wanting to get ahead,” said Marina, adding that she and Bill wanted to “help and incentivize those wishing to learn and be educated.”

“Learning and teaching languages is the conduit to better understanding people and their cultures,” she said, explaining their desire to fund the Topken World Language Laboratory. “It is my way of giving back for the great experience Ramapo College gave me.”


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.


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