Cutting the ribbon on the Senator Ronald L. Rice Department of Public Safety at Essex County College.

The life and legacy of the late NJ Sen. Ronald L. Rice Sr. (ECC Class of 1974) was front and center as Essex County College’s Public Safety Department was renamed in his honor during a special ceremony on March 21.

ECC Board of Trustees Chair Marion A. Bolden, a high school classmate of Ronald Rice, called him a “good friend” who cared deeply about his constituents and was always ready to help when asked. The dedication was spearheaded by the College Trustees soon after his death in March 2023. Chari Bolden also read aloud the Board of Trustees proclamation for Sen. Rice.

“Today, we are here to celebrate the life of Ronald Rice,” ECC’s President, Dr. Augustine A. Boakye told the audience, which included his son, Ronald Jr., former members of his legislative staff and former colleagues.

“I want to thank everyone who made today possible. You have made my father an integral part of this great institution that he loved so much. Today I feel him smiling down on us,” Rice Jr. said. “I remember my father saying whatever he was able to achieve in life started at Essex County College. He understood the importance of community colleges.”

The Senator Ronald L. Rice Department of Public Safety at Essex County College.

Dr. Boakye noted Sen. Rice’s long affiliation with ECC. “He was first a student, and then served as President of our Alumni Association,” he said. “The Senator said be committed to everything you want to do, and don’t be afraid.”

Sen. Rice devoted nearly half a century to public service, working as a Newark Police Officer and serving as a Newark City Council member, as well as a New Jersey State Senator for 36 years in the 28th Legislative District.

He spearheaded legislation to provide relief for individuals in a wide range of quality of life issues. He was a founder and the longtime chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, and focused on racial and social justice issues throughout his career.

Dr. Mamie Bridgeforth, chair of ECC’s Division of Social Sciences, served as Mistress of Ceremonies at the program. She recalled her long friendship with Sen. Rice. In 1998, she replaced him on the Newark City Council, representing the West Ward.

Sen. Rice’s pastor, Bishop Jethro James of Paradise Baptist Church, offered the Invocation.

Other dignitaries at the ceremony included ECC President Emeritus A. Zachary Yamba; ECC Trustees Isabel Cruz, the Rev. Dr. Lanel Guyton and Johanna Wright; Newark City Council members Patrick Council, Dupre Kelly, Louise Scott-Rountree and Michael Silva; State Legislators Carmen Morales (a former ECC Trustee), Gordon Johnson, Shanique Speight and Cleopatra Tucker; former State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo; and Democratic State Committee Chair LeRoy Jones.