NEWPORT — Two local residents, both alumni of Salve Regina University, were honored by the university’s office of Alumni and Parent Programs during its Scholars & Scholarships Awards ceremony, held during Fall Festival weekend in late September.
Newport’s Rebecca “Becca” Bertrand, a 2008 Salve graduate who serves as executive director of newportFILM, was presented with the university’s 2018 Outstanding Young Alumna Award. Bristol’s Mary Lou Gualtieri Riker, whose career teaching English in the Middletown Public Schools spanned more than 30 years, was presented with the 2018 Salve Regina Mission Award.
Bertrand’s award recognizes exceptional achievement of alumni under age 35, who have demonstrated great promise and accomplishment in their chosen professions and through community, public or humanitarian service.
After graduating from Salve summa cum laude with a degree in cultural and historic preservation and a minor in theatre, Bertrand enrolled at the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, graduating in 2010. There, she focused her studies on federal furniture and her master’s thesis, “Myth and Memory: The Legacy of the John Hancock House,” resulted in an article published in Antiques & Fine Art Magazine.
Her career in fundraising and nonprofit management began with a position as a grant writer at the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket. In 2012, she returned to Newport, where she took on a variety of positions at the Newport Art Museum, including grant writer, director of development and interim director of the museum.
When she was named the executive director of newportFILM last year, she became one of the youngest nonprofit executive directors on Aquidneck Island. Throughout her professional career, she has remained committed to Salve, serving as a volunteer for the Office of Admissions.
The eldest of seven children, Riker graduated from Salve Regina in 1968 with a degree in English and a minor in psychology. She completed a postgraduate certification as a teacher later that fall, and went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Rhode Island, a master’s degree in administration from Providence College, and a nursing degree.
She was the recipient of the Von Bulow Fellowship from the Newport Branch of the English Speaking Union in 1984, and spent the summer, accompanied by her late husband J.W. Riker Jr. and her son J.W. Riker III, at the University of London, studying “Twentieth Century Literature, Language and Culture.” In 2001, Mary Lou was selected as a Fulbright Teacher-Scholar to Japan where she was a guest of the Japanese government.
A passionate, dedicated professional with steadfast work experience in a variety of nonprofit areas including education, administration, nursing and fundraising, Riker has a history of committed service focused on paving the way for improvements in education in the state of Rhode Island, and, in turn, improving the lives of children in the state. Her extensive nursing experience providing excellent health care and compassionate treatment to individuals of all ages, from children to the elderly, is recognized by many.
Over the years, she has donated much time and effort to programs and events for the American Cancer Society, Trinity Repertory Theater, and Women and Infant’s Hospital Program in Women’s Oncology, The Players.
She has also been a dedicated alumna who has given much of her time, talent and resources to Salve Regina over the years. She was honored with the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998 for her outstanding achievements.
Upon the death of her husband in 2004, she established a fund at The Players, which is America’s oldest continuously running “little theatre,” to benefit the activities of the J.W. Riker Jr. Green Room, named in honor of her late husband. Riker dedicated 22 years as lector at her parish, St. Mary of the Bay in Warren, and for many years, she was also a Eucharistic Minister.
For more information about Salve Regina University, visit salve.edu.