Alumnus Honors His Father by Establishing Scholarship

A portrait headshot of a man. The photo is in black and white.

Bobby Stern (Photo: Elena Mitchell)

By Anne Sherber

It’s safe to say that if Bobby Stern, BS’08 (Flor), had attended college somewhere other than FDU, his life would look very different. So much of his considerable success, both personal and professional, has roots on the Florham Campus. Stern and his wife Nikita, BS’09 (Flor), cemented their relationship while they were students. And he launched his business, Riviera Hospitality Group, with Andrew Cavitolo, BS’07, MS’08 (Flor).

As a member of the Silberman College Board of Advisors and as a generous donor, Stern stays actively involved with the FDU community. The porch on the side of Hennessy Hall overlooking the Italian gardens is now called the Stern Portico, in recognition of his and Nikita’s support.

Stern’s continued engagement and generosity are ways of giving back to an institution from which he gained so much — which is why he recently established the Uncle Billy Believe and Achieve scholarship in memory of his father, Bill Stern, from whom, he says, he inherited much of his entrepreneurial spirit.

Bill Stern began his career in the 1970s as a public-school teacher at what was then Charles O. Dewey Junior High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. But in the midst of the city’s financial crisis, thousands of teachers, Bill Stern among them, lost their jobs.

As a result, Bill and a friend of his decided to take a chance and develop a childcare center built on the foundation of education and play. The first Big Apple Day School opened in September 1976. For a time, the two entrepreneurs took on any role that needed filling, from teacher to bus driver and everything in between. Bill Stern became known to everyone — students, teachers, parents — as Uncle Billy.

Big Apple Day School came at the right time, with more women entering the workforce and needing reliable, quality day care. The partners opened new centers all over New York and New Jersey, teaching and caring for thousands of students and employing hundreds of teachers over the course of 39 years.

Stern says that it seemed only natural to honor the memory of his father Bill by enabling a new generation of students to follow their entrepreneurial dreams.

The Uncle Billy scholarship is awarded to business or entrepreneurial studies majors who have the potential to be trailblazers — those pursuing their passions and dreams through hard work, determination, perseverance and innovation.

Cameron Brooks, a Florham Campus senior majoring in finance and minoring in accounting, received the scholarship in the 2020–2021 academic year. “Uncle Billy is a role model,” Brooks says. “I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Stern and hearing from him about his father. He encouraged me to think about returning the favor.”