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Graduates urged to give back to Rutgers and society during universitywide commencement

By Ashanti M. Alvarez  

Published: May 30, 2006

Credit: Nick Romanenko
Present and former New Jersey governors
Jon S. Corzine and Thomas H. Kean greet
each other on stage during the
universitywide commencement as Rutgers
President Richard L. McCormick looks on.

Graduates in Camden use their cell
phones to call loved ones after

Representatives of more than 11,000 graduates of Rutgers’ Class of 2006 were urged at the universitywide commencement ceremony to put collective interests before individual interests and devote at least part of their lives to public service.

The university commencement is a time for the president to officially confer degrees upon 600 student representatives from all 29 degree-granting units at Rutgers. Doctoral candidates as well as master’s candidates from the Graduate School-New Brunswick and the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology cross the platform at commencement to receive their diplomas. Most of the estimated 11,190 members of the Class of 2006 received their degrees at 24 convocations held throughout the week in Camden, New Brunswick/Piscataway and Newark. The universitywide commencement ceremony took place May 17 on Voorhees Mall in New Brunswick, its location for the past three years since Richard L. McCormick became Rutgers’ president.

McCormick implored the students to maintain their ties with Rutgers. “Stay connected to Rutgers as we reach for excellence,” he said. “As alumni, you will share with us responsibility for ensuring that young women and men in the future will have the same, or even better, opportunities to receive an outstanding education here. Help us achieve our highest ambitions.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean delivered keynote remarks at the commencement ceremony, and each convocation featured special guest speakers: media dignitaries, such as columnist Bob Herbert, and broadcaster and Rutgers professor Richard Heffner; business leaders like Bank of New York executive vice president Arthur Certosimo and Randal Pinkett, Rutgers alumnus and winner of “The Apprentice”; and creative trailblazers Philip Nulman of the marketing firm The Nulman Group and Jane S. Moss, vice president for programming at Lincoln Center.

Honorary degree recipients included civil rights pioneer Morris S. Dees Jr.; Herbert, columnist for The New York Times; Rutgers alumnus and cancer researcher Philip Schein; Princeton University president and molecular biologist Shirley Tilghman; Essex County College president A. Zachary Yamba; and New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

“If you use the patterns of reasoning and the skills you have developed here in your days at Rutgers, if you embrace calculated risks and set high objectives, New Jersey and America will provide to each of you remarkable opportunities,” Corzine said in his remarks. “As your governor, I urge you to do all the things that will make your life full and meaningful, but I have one request – make those lives here in New Jersey, and don’t forget to have a little fun while you’re doing it.”

Cell biology and neuroscience major Christopher Chen delivered remarks as the undergraduate commencement speaker, a tradition established last year by McCormick.

“The conferral of this degree marks the beginning of a new phase in our lives. You might use your degree to continue your studies in your chosen discipline; or you might simply try and become the first coffee shop owner with a Ph.D. in neuroscience,” Chen said. “Whatever you choose, always remember the many lessons we’ve learned at Rutgers. Appreciate the diversity of others and cherish perspectives different from your own.”

Typically, the keynote commencement speaker receives an honorary doctorate as well, but Kean already received one in 1982 during his first year as New Jersey governor. To honor Kean’s service to government in New Jersey as well as the nation, McCormick presented him with the Rutgers Award for Public Service, citing his contributions as governor, president of Drew University and chair of the 9/11 commission.

Although the Class of 2006 can look to the future with optimism – this year, job prospects for college graduates are better than they have been in several years – Kean advised the graduates to avoid cynicism with regard to the government, and urged them to consider donating at least part of their careers to public service.


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