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Graduate wears historic cap, gown


Published: May 30, 2006

Credit: Nick Romanenko

When Jacqueline Lilley Castledine walked to the podium during the 2006 commencement to receive her doctorate in history, she wore a piece of history herself.

Castledine was selected by the Graduate School-New Brunswick to wear the cap and gown of the late Clara Merritt DeBoer, whose dissertation on the role of African- Americans in Protestant missionary work was representative of the trailblazing research in black history that helped to distinguish Rutgers’ history department. DeBoer wore her cap and gown at the 1973 commencement. She later taught at several colleges, including Rutgers, and authored two books on African-American history.

After her death last Nov. 15 at the age of 80, her husband, the Rev. John C. DeBoer donated her cap and gown to Rutgers. To honor DeBoer, the Graduate School-New Brunswick selected Castledine, also a scholar of African-American history, to wear her academic regalia.

“Dr. Castledine represents the newest generation of scholars carrying on the commitment of Dr. DeBoer and her contemporaries to the study of African-American history,” said Barbara E. Bender, associate dean for academic support and graduate student services at the Graduate School-New Brunswick.

Castledine, who is from Granby, Mass., wrote her dissertation under Professors Nancy Hewitt and Steven Lawson on “Gendering the Cold War: Race, Class, and Women’s Peace Politics, 1945-1975.” Her research on women’s history, and specifically black women’s history, has been published or presented in many venues. She has received numerous grants and fellowships and is working on a United States history textbook.

Like DeBoer, Castledine began her undergraduate education as an older student. She also shares a common research interest in African-American history and culture.

“I feel quite honored to wear the DeBoer regalia,” Castledine said. “Since learning about her, I feel a kinship to her, as we share commonalities in not only our academic career paths but also our research interests. I believe that the gift of the DeBoer regalia celebrates a commitment to women’s education that is as important today as it was in the early 1970s when Dr. DeBoer received her doctorate.”

Return to the May 30, 2006 issue

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Last Updated: May 30, 2006

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