PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers Athletics celebrated its third annual 50-Yard Line Dinner on Thursday, Aug. 4, at High Point Solutions Stadium by bestowing its most distinguished honor, the 1869 Legacy Award, to Dr. Ronald J. and Joanna Garutti. The award, which recognizes supporters who have made a lifetime impact on Rutgers Athletics, highlighted an evening that previewed the upcoming football season under first-year head coach Chris Ash.
Ash shared his vision for Rutgers Football and communicated the impact that R-Fund supporters have on the program. He was introduced by Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs, who reflected on the success of 2015-16 and detailed the many opportunities ahead for the Scarlet Knights.
The event served as a summer reunion and celebration for the Rutgers Athletics community. Head coaches, athletics senior staff, university dignitaries, student-athletes and R-Fund supporters at the All-American level or higher (annual athletic gifts of $10,000+) were in attendance. Rutgers play-by-play voice and television personality Chris Carlin served as emcee.
Carlin was joined on stage by three student-athletes who answered questions posed by the supporters in attendance. Field hockey's Alyssa Bull, wrestling's Ken Theobold and track & field's Chamique Francis conveyed what being a Scarlet Knight means to them, expressing thoughts of pride, family and resiliency.
The dinner coincided with the unveiling of the 2nd Annual Rutgers Athletics Impact Report, a full color booklet that serves as a review of key moments, facts and figures over the past year. Supporters present received an exclusive first look at the report, as well as a personal copy.
Newly appointed Deputy Director of Athletics Sarah Baumgartner recognized the top level of R-Fund membership, the Scarlet Society. This group of dedicated and passionate supporters contribute at levels of $50,000 or more annually or $1 million or more in lifetime giving to Rutgers Athletics.
Scarlet Society members Ron and Joanna Garutti were honored for their lifetime impact on Rutgers Athletics and received a standing ovation as recipients of the third 1869 Legacy Award. A tribute video featuring President Robert Barchi, Hobbs, Ash, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Kenny Parker, football student-athlete Hayden Rettig (recipient of the Ron and Joanna Garutti Endowed Football Scholarship) and members of the Garutti family was played upon the stadium video board.
After Ron and Joanna graciously accepted the award, Ron addressed the crowd with an empowering speech. He stated "It's 2016, and here we are, already entering our third year of competition in the Big Ten. And everything is now in place for RU to achieve the kind of athletic success we all want, and which it rightfully deserves."
Ron called upon fellow supporters to step up and seize this moment in Rutgers history, quoting Eugene Ionesco's play, Exit the King. "We don't have the TIME to take our time." The clock is ticking," he continued. "All Rutgers people have to do their part NOW to make our vision a reality."
The Garuttis, who refer to Rutgers as family, were instrumental in the completion of the football strength and conditioning center renovation. The renovation is a step toward providing student-athletes the facilities they require to compete for championships. They also support one of only six fully endowed athletic scholarships, affording the opportunity to earn a first-class degree while competing for Rutgers.
For more information on the 50-Yard Line Dinner or any other R-Fund initiatives, please contact the Department of Athletic Development at 848-932-7629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos from the event can be seen HERE.