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Raritan Valley Community College announces 2022-2023 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients

BRANCHBURG TOWNSHIP, NJ (Somerset County) – Jamal Kassim of East Brunswick, Elisabeth McConville of Bridgewater, and Robert Nichols of Asbury have been named the recipients of Raritan Valley Community College’s 2022-2023 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Presented by the College and the RVCC Foundation, the Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes living alumni for their exceptional professional successes and/or civic leadership within their local community, across the state, or beyond. A nominee’s academic accomplishments, service to RVCC, and personal triumphs are also considered.

Jamal Kassim (Class of 2011): As a first-generation college graduate who was raised by a single mother, Kassim overcame many obstacles early in life and now enjoys a flourishing career in the education sector. After receiving an Associate of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from RVCC, Kassim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Human Resources and a Master’s Degree in Labor Relations, both from Rutgers University, earning a perfect 4.0 GPA in his Master’s work. Kassim brought his expertise back to RVCC in 2016, finishing his tenure as the Transfer Articulation and Graduate Associate. He recently left the position to become the Assistant Registrar at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University. While at RVCC, Kassim was credited with improving the graduation application process and increasing commencement ceremony participation among graduates. He also helped revive the Black Student Alliance (BSA) on campus and served as its faculty advisor. He was heavily involved with the RVCC Foundation’s “Giving Day” and helped elevate the BSA’s fundraising results. In his free time, Kassim volunteers as an Assistant Football Coach for Somerville Branchburg United.

Elisabeth McConville (Class of 1995 and 2004): With three degrees (Paralegal, Humanities, and English) from RVCC—all with high honors and graduating the latter two “Cum Laude”—it is clear that few graduates have gotten more from the College than McConville; and few have given more. RVCC has benefitted significantly from her philanthropy, the seeds of which may have been planted during her years of working as the personal assistant to Doris Duke. McConville also established a scholarship at RVCC in memory of her sister, the Mary T. Zanetti Scholarship at RVCC, which has benefited some 23 students. McConville served on the RVCC Foundation Board of Directors from 2010-2018. She has been honored as “Lady Commander in The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem” (also called Order of the Holy Sepulchre), which is a Roman Catholic order of knighthood under the protection of the Holy See. McConville also received the Courier News’ “Star Award” for her work with the Bridgewater Police Crisis Intervention Team.

Robert Nichols (Class of 2001): The recipient of an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degree from RVCC, this 12-time inductee to the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame (honors include “School of the Year,” “Instructor of the Year,” “International Instructor of the Year,” and “Man of the Year”) has led Union UTA Martial Arts & SAMI Combat Systems of NJ, one of the largest Martial Arts schools in New Jersey, since 2001. The Union-based facility serves inner-city areas such as Newark and Elizabeth, offering a program focused on personal development, leadership training, and community involvement. More than 450 individuals have earned their black belts at Nichols’ facility, and over 250 individuals have participated in Leadership certifications. He also volunteered as an Anti-Bullying Coordinator for 12 public schools from 2004-2019 and served on the board of Martial Arts with Hearts Charity Foundation. Nichols’ first book, Earn a Black Belt in…An Average Guy’s Guide to Life, quickly became an AMAZON #1 Best Seller. He is also a 12-time US Commerce Award Winner for Best Business.

For additional information about the Distinguished Alumni Award, the RVCC Foundation, or the RVCC Alumni Association, contact Executive Director Mike Marion at or 908-648-8567.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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