- Position: Founding Chair
Recruited to Princeton University in football and track from a nearby New Jersey public high school, Stu Rickerson began transitioning to rugby as a sophomore, as the Tigers were one of the top college teams in the Nation. Just three weeks after joining the Club in 1969, he played in the 1st Ivy League Championship (Princeton won), and the Tigers won again in 1971, when he served as Princeton’s Captain and Coach. He also played in Princeton’s 1stAlumni Reunions game in 1970. Through the 1970s, he continued his rugby career with the top Eastern sides, Club Sud Americano de Rugby (now Potomac AC) and the New York Athletic Club, playing with many other former Princeton Rugby players.
Stu became Secretary of the fledgling Princeton Rugby Friends in the mid-1970s, replacing the Friends’ Founder, Tom Pirelli. After several international tours with the Princeton “Old Boys” and a few “cheap shot” induced surgeries, his employer told him that while rugby is a great game, if he wanted to keep playing, he “should play professionally.” As rugby was still an entirely amateur sport, Stu took the “hint” and hung up his rugby cleats to focus on his legal and business career.
His 30-year career in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries was cut short in 2005 by pancreatic cancer, and Stu was forced into retirement from company management. With a 5-year survival rate of just 6%, he knows he is very lucky to be alive, and fortunate to have so many rugby friends to buoy him up along the way. He still serves as director to several boards, drawing on his experience with NYSE and NASDAQ companies, including the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Through it all, Princeton Rugby was never far from Stu’s mind. In the 1990s a Princeton administrator called Stu to offer congratulations on a team’s qualifying for USA Rugby’s Collegiate Final Four. The conversation ended with the comment, “Unfortunately, Rugby will have to decline; this late in the academic year we have no travel budget left for the team.” Rickerson asked for 48-hours, made some calls and got enough pledges to send the team to the national championships. An unintended consequence of his calls was the birth of Princeton’s Rugby Travel Angels, a group that have stood ready – never failing — to cover unbudgeted Princeton Rugby team expenses on short notice for the past two decades.
This experience also led to the formation of Princeton University Rugby Endowment Board, and Stu became its Founding Chair. Student dues and University support was no longer enough to cover the costs of a modern collegiate rugby program. The Rugby Endowment is dedicated to providing the coaching, fields, facilities, medical support, equipment and sanctioned travel for all Princeton University Rugby teams. Stu continues to serve on the Board today.
In 2006, the college rugby coaches in New Jersey asked this “Jersey Boy” if they could name the trophy for the inaugural New Jersey Intercollegiate Rugby Tournament after him, and“The Rickerson Cup” was born. Four years later, the players wanted to use the event to raise awareness and research dollars for a meaningful cause. The event has since raised over $300,000 for pancreatic cancer researchers. For more information, search “Rickerson Cup.”
With gifts from Rugby Friends and teammates, during the 40th Reunion year of Stu’s graduation in 2011, Princeton University honored his dedicated service to the college and the sport by naming its primary rugby game pitch, “Rickerson Field.” A plaque at the field describes the inspiration he provides: “Who with Tiger’s Heart and Tiger’s Roar uplifts the spirits of the Men and Women of Princeton Rugby.”