A Fulbright Student Dedicated to Improving Public Health Among Top Grads Honored During Matthew Leydt Ceremony

Students inducted into the matthew leydt society
Members of the Class of 2024 were inducted into the Matthew Leydt Society on Friday, May 10.
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

Erin Go was only 6 when she and her parents immigrated from the Philippines to Edison, NJ.

Fifteen years later, memories of the struggles her family faced there continue to inspire the new Rutgers graduate as she embarks on her career in public health. This August, she’ll return to her home country as a Fulbright student where she will work with underserved girls to understand the barriers to HPV vaccination and help improve immunization coverage.

“My passion for addressing health inequities comes from my family’s experience living in the Philippines where there are many socioeconomic barriers to healthcare,” said Go, 21, who plans to pursue a combined medical degree and master’s in public health after returning from her research trip. “I want to work with women and children from marginalized backgrounds to improve their access to health care and help them lead long and healthy lives so that they can accomplish all that they wish to.”

This weekend, before Go earned her degree in cell biology and neuroscience from the School of Arts and Sciences, she was inducted into the university’s prestigious Matthew Leydt Society along with 224 of her peers who ranked in the top 2 percent of Rutgers University-New Brunswick's and Rutgers Health's graduating Class of 2024.

Go and her fellow inductees were welcomed into the society during a dinner Friday on the grounds of the home of Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway, who chatted with the students and their guests and posed for photos. During his remarks to celebrate the occasion, Holloway congratulated the group on their collective academic accomplishment.

“You have all demonstrated an unwavering commitment to academic rigor throughout your time at Rutgers. Your tireless pursuit of knowledge upholds our highest standards of excellence,” said Holloway.  “On this momentous occasion, we take immense pride in celebrating your remarkable achievements. We are confident that the same dedication and passion that fueled your success here will propel you toward exceptional and rewarding lives.”

Named for the first and only 1774 graduate of Queen’s College, the Matthew Leydt Society was launched in 2015. Leydt matriculated as a sophomore when instruction began at Queen's College in 1771, earning a bachelor of arts degree three years later.

At that first commencement in New Brunswick, Leydt delivered orations in Latin, Dutch and English and, after graduation, earned his license to enter the ministry of the Dutch Reformed Church. At Queen’s College, he studied under Frederick Frelinghuysen, the college’s first tutor, and Rev. Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, who would later become the college’s first president in 1786. In 1825, Queen’s College was renamed Rutgers College in honor of Col. Henry Rutgers, a trustee and Revolutionary War veteran.

Erin Go, Charles Strehlo and Sara Umar at the 2024 Matthew Leydt Society reception.
Erin Go, Charles Strehlo and Sara Umar at the 2024 Matthew Leydt Society reception.
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

Friday’s celebration was an opportunity for those being inducted to enjoy a more intimate gathering with a few close friends and relatives before taking part in the university’s large-scale commencement events.

For Go, the honor came as a pleasant surprise.

“I didn’t go into college thinking I was going to get a 4.0, but I was hoping I would,” she said. “I’ve always loved learning about biology and neuroscience, and that helped me do well.”

As a string quartet played under the tent on the lawn of the president’s home, Charles Strehlo, 21, of Highland Park, chatted with his peers. The son of Rutgers geography professor and dean of social sciences, Robin Leichenko, Strehlo graduated Sunday with a double major in political science and philosophy from the School of Arts and Sciences.

“This is a fantastic honor,” he said. “It’s so cool to get to meet others being inducted and have connections afterward.”

Strehlo, who starts working in June as a legal and compliance associate for PDT Partners in Manhattan, hopes to one day attend law school. His advice for undergraduates striving to reach the top of their class? Take advantage of all Rutgers has to offer.

“There are a lot of resources at Rutgers that people don’t take time to look for,” he said. “If they did, they would find out how amazing they are.”

Somerset’s Sara Umar, 21, attended the event with her parents before graduating with a degree in public health from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

“They are the reason why I achieved this honor. Without their support, it wouldn’t have been possible,” said Umar, who hopes to continue her education at Rutgers School of Public Health to prepare for a career as a biostatistician focusing on cancer research.

Umar said she “studied every single chance I could get,” while at Rutgers and took advantage of internship opportunities, including one at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital where she analyzed survey data to help enhance the patient experience.

“It helped that I was truly interested in every course I took at Rutgers,” she said of her achievement. “And all my professors were amazing.”