Niagara University student Rhiannon Rodunardt, center, is pictured with, from left, John Persons, president and COO of Tops Friendly Markets, and the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University.

Rhiannon Rodunardt is the first recipient of a new Tops Friendly Markets scholarship intended to support students studying in Niagara University’s food and consumer-packaged goods marketing program.

Tops associates, dependents, or grandchildren pursuing a bachelor’s degree with the food and CPG marketing concentration at NU are now eligible to apply for scholarship reimbursement through Tops. Rodunardt, a cashier at the Tops store in Randolph, was recently named the inaugural recipient.

“To receive support from Tops Markets for my education was a great honor,” Rodunardt said. “I am very pleased to represent and support Tops Markets through my education itself. Being accepted for this scholarship meant all of what I have worked for (and) been involved in, along with strategically picking a workplace during high school, pays off in the future. Getting involved with Tops in my early years allowed me to have knowledge of this scholarship, which I was very grateful to participate in and, luckily, was chosen for.”

Tops Friendly Markets, a leading full-service grocery retailer in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts, has been an advocate of supporting formal education of its employees for over two decades. Since the inception of its two scholarship programs, which are in conjunction with the UFCW, more than 21,500 scholarships have been awarded and over $20,800,000 has been provided to Tops associates for scholarship reimbursement.

“At Tops, we recognize the hard work of our associates and, in turn, support our associates with scholarship opportunities,” said Denise Terrell, the company’s human resources coordinator. “Supporting education is a high priority for us, not only as a means to provide career growth and opportunity within the company, but also to ensure that members of our community are given options and presented with resources to succeed. Providing scholarships to outstanding students to enable them to better their education is our way of investing in the future.”

Niagara University, with guidance from regional food industry leaders, established in 2016 a Food Marketing Center of Excellence within the university’s College of Business Administration. The center works with these industry leaders to create, build and inspire transformative programs and partnerships within the Western New York community. In addition, the center enhances the curriculum for the university’s undergraduate degree in marketing with a concentration in food and consumer packaged goods.