This month, the Ramapo College Foundation honored members of the community who have made a difference at the college. The 30th annual “Distinguished Citizens” awards were handed out at a gala March 3 that raised money for scholarships, faculty and student research opportunities and campus capital projects.
One of the honorees this year, Rick DeSilva, has lived in Mahwah with his family for the past 35 years. DeSilva, who owns Liberty Subaru in Emerson and Liberty Hyundai in Mahwah, says when he first moved here, he looked for ways to become involved in the town.
“I loved the town, and I wanted to become a part of it, so in the 70’s I joined the fire department.” Although he is now retired from active duty with Company 1, “the core of my Mahwah friends still comes from the fire department.”
Both of DeSilva’s sons – Rick, Jr. and Mike – were raised in Mahwah. “So, I did the little league thing, which is typical Mahwah. You become as involved as you can in what your kids are doing.” DeSilva got so involved that he ran for a seat on the Mahwah school board. He served for seven years, from 1995-2002, and called the time a “great experience.” In town, DeSilva also serves on the Board of Adjustment, and is a member of the Mahwah Municipal Alliance.
Professionally, DeSilva says he “loves” his business. He started Liberty Subaru in 1977 in Oradell, and recently moved it to a bigger facility in Emerson. The family opened the Liberty Hyundai dealership a decade ago, and moved it to Mahwah four years ago. “We love being here,” DeSilva said. “We are a part of the community, and getting to work in your hometown is a blessing.”
The two dealerships are now mostly managed by DeSilva’s sons, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down. A few years ago, DeSilva started to become more involved with Ramapo College. “I had always taken it for granted,” he said. “It was sort of in the back of my mind, and then when I got introduced to what was going on there through a friend of my son’s, and I went to campus, I was really impressed.”
DeSilva was the driving force behind the annual Ramapo Rumble, happening this year on May 20. The motorcycle ride and poker run is a daylong event that includes lunch, live music, raffles, prizes and a 90-mile motorcycle course around North Jersey. The Rumble raises money for Ramapo scholarship funds and other campus activities. He also serves on the Ramapo College Foundation Board of Governors.
About receiving the Foundation’s annual award, DeSilva said he was “entirely honored. Who has it better than me? I have a wonderful family, I love my town, I’m very involved. I just feel very blessed.”
Other Distinguished Citizens named this year include Kristine Denning of River Edge, a 1990 graduate of Ramapo College who is a partner in the law firm of Harwood Lloyd, Hackensack, in the firm’s Insurance Litigation Department; Kevin Lobo of Wyckoff, group president, Orthopaedics, Stryker Corporation, Mahwah, and Thomas Shara of Wyckoff, president and CEO of Lakeland Bancorp and Lakeland Bank, Oak Ridge, who serves on the Foundation’s Board of Governors.