Donors of Record Donation to Rider Athletics Revealed

Rider originally announced the couple’s anonymous $2.5 million leadership gift to the Rider Arena project in October 2020. The Canastras chose to come forward now to show their commitment to Rider at a time of extraordinary challenges, according to a statement. provided by the university.

“We want our unwavering commitment to the University to be known,” Wayne Canastra, co-founder of Affiliated Management, Inc., a private property management company, said in the statement. “Coming out of this incredibly difficult time of the pandemic – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, really – we wanted everyone to know how much we believe in Rider’s mission and in his students.”

“Over the years, the amount of our donations has grown as we take great pride in seeing the difference each has made to the University,” Rider Trustee Jill Hammer Canastra said in the statement. “I think Rider is a very special place whose size provides the unique ability to nurture and provide great opportunities for all of its students, and we want to do everything we can to support it. We both believe the time has come to show how much Rider means to all of us by investing in its future.

The couple’s historic commitment to athletics supported the university’s campaign to elevate the alumni gymnasium into a modern NCAA Division I arena.

They hope other donors will follow their lead, the statement said.

The university is seeking funds to increase seating, add an entertainment room and centrally-suspended scoreboard with digital signage, create a new, larger lobby with separate ticketing and concession areas, and install more toilet.

Improvements will also include a significant expansion of the existing sports medicine area, a dedicated locker room for the volleyball team, and a new $1.7 million strength and conditioning center for student-athletes.

Among the naming opportunities still available are the arena competition field, basketball practice facility, men’s and women’s locker room lounges, and conference rooms. Supporters can also nominate an arena seat for $500, a locker for $1,000 or a padded arena-side seat for $2,500, or join other significant donors on a donor wall set up for events. donations of $5,000 or more.

These and other naming opportunities can be found at

“The project promises to enhance the game day experience for fans and students alike,” athletic director Don Harnum said in the statement. “It will also boost Rider’s profile and help recruiting into the highly competitive Metropolitan Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Enthusiasm for the project is growing and we hope that additional contributions will allow us to reach our goal before the start of the next basketball season.

The $18.2 million project will complete the university’s vision for the building, built in 1958 and the first on the Rider campus. Over the years, the complex has added a practice facility and renovated the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms and coaches’ offices. The transformation of the main courtyard involved the installation of new flooring, lighting, sound and video systems.

Along with new courtside seating and other seating, better sightlines were created and catwalk tunnels were established for better crowd flow.

In 2019, the Canastras, who are consistent supporters of Rider Athletics as well as other areas of the university, contributed to the cost of renovating the Richard A. Coppola Pool and exterior of that building. This facility now bears the name Canastra Health and Sports Center in recognition of the couple’s donation. The arena will also be named after the couple upon completion of the project.

Jill Hammer Canastra received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Rider’s School of Education in 1998. A retired middle school counselor who previously worked for the Millburn Township Board of Education, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Rider and a master’s degree in counseling with a certificate in guidance from Seton Hall University, according to the release. Before starting her family, she worked as an elementary school teacher.

Wayne Canastra earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Rider, but when he graduated teaching jobs were scarce in New Jersey, so he changed careers to real estate. The company he co-founded manages multi-family residential, business and commercial real estate in northern New Jersey; Bucks County, Pennsylvania; and Rockland County, New York, according to the release. He is a former board member of New Jersey Special Olympics and a former board member of Barnabas Health Care System.

The couple are also members of the 1865 Society, a special community of donors dedicated to shaping Rider’s future through annual donations to the university.

“Jill and Wayne’s many professional accomplishments are testament to the transformative power of a Rider education,” Rider University President Gregory G. Dell’Omo said in the statement. “Their continued support of areas across the university underscores a core belief that education has the power to improve lives.

“Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Canastras, our athletes can expect to compete in top-notch facilities,” he said in the statement. “Their unwavering dedication strengthens Rider and enables continuous improvements on our campus. These long-time supporters are the foundation of the university’s outlook.

Supporters who would like to donate to this campus project or who would like to purchase a nameplate for a locker or seat can visit or contact Senior Director of Development Pamela Mingle at 609-896-7725 or [email protected].

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