Rider University
Higher Ed

Largest Gift in Rider’s College of Education and Human Services’ History

The $2.35 million gift from James H. McGordy ’39 and Elsie Varga ’39 will establish scholarships for education students.

Rider University has received a $2.35 million gift through a trust established by James H. McGordy ’39 and Elsie Varga ’39. The gift will endow a scholarship benefiting commuter students within the College of Education and Human Services. It will also partially fund a $2,000 annual scholarship for eligible incoming first year and transfer undergraduate education majors, beginning in fall 2023.

The couple’s gift is the largest gift that the College of Education and Human Services has ever received. It also marks the 19th gift of $1 million or more that the University has received since it began its comprehensive fundraising campaign, Transforming Students – Transforming Lives, in July 2017.

The gift comes at a critical time as the United States faces a teacher shortage.

“The College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) is very grateful for the generosity of James and Elsie McGordy,” says Dr. Jason Barr, CEHS dean. “Their gift will help encourage those who are committed to pursuing teaching as a profession and will serve to offer a further incentive to enter this rewarding field.”

The McGordys were loyal supporters of Rider, consistently contributing to the Annual Fund. Elsie McGordy died in October 2005 followed by her husband in August 2020. Their only child, Elza England, passed away in August of last year, leaving the remainder of the trust to be split between Rider and Rutgers University.

Dr. Sharon Sherman, dean emerita of the College of Education and Human Services, met with James McGordy during his visit to campus several years ago.

“The impression he made that day has remained with me over the years,” she says. “He described the time they met and how their relationship grew. From his words, I could picture them strolling hand-in-hand to classes. Rider has always been an institution where relationships flourish.”

That was well-known even in 1939. The couple’s romance was duly recorded back then in a chatty column in the Rider College News. Jim and Elsie were ‘together as usual’ the newspaper reported in chronicling a trip taken with classmates to the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

As their romance continued to blossom, Elsie McGordy received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Rider before earning a master’s in education from Rutgers in 1944. She last worked for Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School. She was active during her time at Rider, becoming a member of Alpha Epsilon Zeta, the Honorary Teachers’ Club, vice-president of the Commercial Teachers’ Club and the editor of that club’s publication, Scroll.

James McGordy received a Bachelor of Accounts at Rider and was a member of the Accountants’ Club before enrolling at Rutgers where he received a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1951 and a master’s degree from its Graduate School of Management in 1957.

He is a former chief financial officer for Ingredient Technology Corp., and was one of the original partners of Ernst & Young, spending the majority of his career there before forming McGordy Associates. In 1988, he served on the Joint Insurance Fund.

While raising their daughter, the couple resided in Oradell, where James was involved in the community, serving as a councilman and as a member of the zoning board of adjustment.

The $80 million Transforming Students – Transforming Lives campaign began five years ago. Its priorities are to invest in facilities, to increase scholarship support and build the university’s endowment, and to fuel student success through gifts to the Annual Fund.

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