Meet the trustees: Joan Mazzotti

By Amethyst Martinez

When Joan Mazzotti packed up her boxes and moved to Rider College for school in 1968, she had no idea of the career in store for her, or that she would become the   university’s Board of Trustees’ first female chair decades later. 

Mazzotti left her Italian Catholic household for something new, picking Rider out of a booklet that was once handed out at high school counseling offices. Pulling out her color-coordinated binder now, in 2024, Mazzotti had notes of her entire career and life.

Once a political science major who graduated in 1972, Mazzotti, pushing her royal blue glasses up the bridge of her nose, recalled it as one of the most important times to be on a college campus.                                                                

“The entire culture of campus communities changed,” she said.

From the Vietnam War protests at Rider and across the nation, to the May 4 killings at Kent State University in 1970, where Ohio National Guard members shot into a crowd of university demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine students, college campuses had become the epicenter of change.

Her experience as a first-generation college student shaped her love for the university due to how accessible it was for students like her to attend then and now.

“Our family believes deeply that a college education; it should be accessible to all, and I think Rider embodies that,” said Mazzotti. 

After her time at Rider, Mazzotti attended law school at Villanova University, graduating in 1975 and starting a two-year fellowship at the American Law Institute, where she focused on the legal aspects of museum administration. 

oan Mazzotti’s graduation portrait.
Joan Mazzotti’s graduation portrait. (Photo courtesy of Joan Mazzotti.)

Afterward, she was offered a job with Aramark, a large facilities and food service company, which she described as male-dominated. 

“I always tried to empower women in the company. I even started a women’s network,” said Mazzotti. “There started to be a little bit more of a critical mass of women, so I did that.”

After 23 years in the company, Mazzotti moved on to a role that evoked more passion: executive director of Philadelphia Futures, a nonprofit organization in the city that worked with low-income students coming out of the lowest-performing high schools.

“I wanted to live out my values,” said Mazzotti. “We had remarkable results because they were primarily students of color, and we had amazing college acceptance and college graduation rates.”

Around the same time, Mazzotti served her first term on Rider’s Board of Trustees as a member from 1996 to 2005, acting as the first female chair from 1998 to 2002. Board member positions are nine years long, and some of the main obligations are working with the endowment, approving the budget and making decisions about school presidencies and for the university.

Mazzotti retired from Philadelphia Futures in 2017 and looked for her next endeavor. After Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo asked her to return in 2018, she took a position on the Board once more and began as the chair again in 2023. 

“It’s our love for the university that brings you back here to serve on the board and put your time in,” she said.

oan Mazzotti in the red vest at the Alpha Xi Delta House for 1972 senior dinner.
Joan Mazzotti in the red vest at the Alpha Xi Delta House for 1972 senior dinner. (Photo courtesy of Joan Mazzotti.)

Mazzotti laughed, saying that she was the first woman chair at the university, and then the second, due to her two terms. 

“When President Dell’Omo asked me in 2018, I had just retired,” said Mazzotti, smiling. “Got me at a good moment.”

Her involvement at the university has formed her legacy, according to Mazzotti, from scholarships to awards to relationships. 

With self-proclaimed feminist DNA, she has worked toward women’s empowerment in all of her life’s sectors, including her time as a Rider Board member. 

One way she did that was with the creation of the Mazzotti Awards in Women’s Leadership, where faculty and staff women leaders would form a community and empower one another. Chosen from across the university, 41 women have gone through the program on leadership development so far. 

Her biggest accomplishment, however, may be the Joan C. Mazzotti and Michael C. Kelly Endowed Scholarship, which is a need-based award for first generation Black and Latino students, given by Mazzotti’s family and named after her and her husband. 

The first to receive the scholarship, Zeina Ly, graduated in 2023 and still keeps in touch with Mazzotti. 

“We met over grilled cheeses, and from then on, we continued to stay in contact whenever she was on campus,” said Ly. “I got the financial relief from the scholarship, but we also built a great relationship on top of that.”

From left to right: Michael Kelly, Zeina Ly and Joan Mazzotti in Rider’s business building.
From left to right: Michael Kelly, Zeina Ly and Joan Mazzotti in Rider’s business building. (Photo courtesy of Joan Mazzotti.)

Since then, Mazzotti has helped her with career advice like professionalism and networking, according to Ly. Now, Ly works at Bloomberg in the financial sector of the company.

“I know that I wouldn’t be in the position that I am now if it wasn’t through the fate [that] they invested in me through that scholarship,” said Ly. “I want to emphasize that beyond the tangible benefits, the connection that we’ve grown has been a very cherished aspect of that.”

Outside of Rider, Mazzotti loves spending time with her family, many details showing the life she’s built— from being neighbors with recently retired Eagles player Jason Kelce, watching Phillies games with her husband and continuing her lifelong dedication to education. 

 “We really believe in Rider’s mission, and the students it serves,” said Mazzotti. “I’ve been very fortunate in my work life, and I was here [at Rider.]”

Related Articles

Back to top button