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Rio Celebrates Heritage with Founders Day

by Jessica Patterson

September 14, 2017

Rio recognized five Alumni Award Winners for 2017 during Founders Day. Pictured left to right are Alumni Council Chair Megan Matura Barnes, Class of 2002; University of Rio Grande Staff Award Winner Carolyn Berry; Atwood Achievement Award Winner C. Michael Reardon, Class of 1966; University of Rio Grande Alumni Award Winner Leonard Longo, Class of 1963; University of Rio Grande Staff Award Winner Rebecca Thomas Long, Class of 1999; and Rio President Dr. Michelle Johnston.

Rio recognized five Alumni Award Winners for 2017 during Founders Day. Pictured left to right are Alumni Council Chair Megan Matura Barnes, Class of 2002; University of Rio Grande Staff Award Winner Carolyn Berry; Atwood Achievement Award Winner C. Michael Reardon, Class of 1966; University of Rio Grande Alumni Award Winner Leonard Longo, Class of 1963; University of Rio Grande Staff Award Winner Rebecca Thomas Long, Class of 1999; and Rio President Dr. Michelle Johnston.

University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College has achieved several accomplishments since first opening in 1876. To commemorate the dedication put into building and opening the institution, and the people who have helped it to thrive along the way, Rio hosted its annual Founders’ Day celebration. This year, Founders’ Day took place one day short of the 141st anniversary of the first day of class at Rio Grande College Wednesday, September 13, 1876. Director of Alumni Relations, Delyssa Edwards said Founders’ Day recognizes Rio’s history and celebrates how successful the institution has been over the past 141 years.

“This day gives us the opportunity to celebrate our founders, Nehemiah and Permelia Atwood,” Edwards said. “We all have a beginning, and it’s important to remember where we came from. We want our students today to know they are as much a part of Rio’s legacy as the students were when it first began.”

This year, the Founders’ Day revolves around the theme, “The Rio Legacy,” commemorating Rio’s past, present and future. Rio’s story began when Freewill Baptist Minister Reverend Ira Haning persuaded affluent residents and entrepreneurs Nehemiah and Permelia Atwood to establish a college. After Nehemiah’s death, Permelia began the work to make Rio a reality, establishing an endowment and deeding 10 acres of land to the future site of the institution that would become “the Lamp of the Hills.” Since opening in 1876, Rio has grown from the small college to include several new degree programs, buildings and athletic teams. After becoming the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College, the institution developed off-site centers in Meigs, Vinton and Jackson Counties to cater to a larger demographic of potential students. Rio President Dr. Michelle Johnston said she believes Rio will support this legacy by providing quality education to students from around the world.

“We are fortunate to be living the realization of Nehemiah and Permelia Atwood,” Johnston said. “Rio was founded on the hope of bringing higher education to a rural region. As we move forward into Rio’s future, we will continue to honor the Atwoods’ dream by enriching the lives of those who are part of the Rio Legacy. We continue to have a critical impact on our community and well beyond by offering high quality education.”

As part of the festivities, Rio recognized five Alumni Award Winners for 2017. Dr. Patrick Young, Distinguished Alumnus Award; C. Michael Reardon, Atwood Achievement Award and Trustee Emeritus Recognition; Leonard Longo, University of Rio Grande Alumni Award; and Rebecca Thomas Long and Carolyn Berry, University of Rio Grande Staff Awards. Edwards said these individuals embody Rio Pride through continued service to the institution and their communities.

“We thought Founders’ Day would be the perfect time to honor this year’s Alumni Award recipients. This is a great way for our students to meet some of our alumni and learn how Rio helped them to succeed in their careers,” Edwards said. “Rio holds a special place in the hearts of our alumni, so it’s important to carry on this tradition and recognize their accomplishments.”

This year’s award winners are examples of Rio Pride, devoting themselves to education and leadership and demonstrating what it means to be part of the Rio Legacy by serving as role models in their communities. Dr. Young, Class of 1980, is a recently retired technology leader and senior research associate at DuPoint Building Innovations who dedicated 33 years to the company. During his employment he was named inventor on six United States patents with five other patents pending. He went on to obtain his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Ohio University and is now employed at Seal Bond Adhesives and Sealants Corporation and resides in Norton Shores, Michigan.

Reardon, Class of 1966, is a business owner, entrepreneur, and community philanthropist. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, having served in Korea. He has been a member of dozens of boards over the last 40 years, including the University of Rio Grande Board from 2005-2017. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Reardon and his wife have made their home in Wooster, Ohio since 1974. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Longo, Class of 1963, is now a retired educator from Long Beach, New Jersey. The name Leonard Longo and Rio Grande go hand in hand when talking about the institution. While on campus, Longo was part of the Fraternal Order of the Archon Fraternity and remains a devoted alumnus of the organization.

Long has had a lifelong career with Rio, beginning as a student and now Vice President of Student & Administrative Affairs. She obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree from Rio in Public Relations in 1999 and a graduate degree from Marshall University in 2006. She began working full time at Rio in 2001 and has held several positions throughout her career.

Berry has been with the University of Rio Grande for 14 years. Getting her start as an administrative assistant in the nursing department and then serving in other staff positions, Berry found her home with Campus Police where she has been since 2013 as their assistant and records clerk.