Issue Date: May 30, 2006
By Ashanti M. Alvarez
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.
“Every week, we seem to read of some new indictment of somebody who’s been privileged and powerful,” Kean said. “You will be needed if we are to improve those headlines. John Kennedy was the one who called my generation to public service. I remember he called public service – politics – the noblest profession.
“Over the next 10 years, the generation who was called to service by John Kennedy will leave the stage forever. Sixty percent of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement,” Kean said. “And that includes, by the way, 90 percent of the government’s most senior executives, and state government faces a similar trend. Who will take their place if not people like you?”
In addition to receiving an honorary degree at the universitywide commencement, Herbert delivered the keynote address at the joint convocation of the Newark College of Arts and Sciences and University College-Newark, where more than 1,000 students received degrees. That ceremony and three others were moved inside to the Golden Dome Athletic Center due to rain. This year marked the largest graduating classes ever for the School of Criminal Justice and the College of Nursing.
Herbert urged the students to respond to urgent matters in government and society. “Our society is in trouble, and I’m telling you today, nearly half a century after JFK told us that we can do better – I’m telling you that we have to do better,” Herbert said. “In the past several years, in my view, we’ve gone backwards as a nation, and much of the promise of the post-World War II era has been lost. Now you are confronted with a world filled to the brim with enormous problems. Those problems are your opportunities, and yours is the generation that will be providing us some of the earliest leaders of the 21st century. I can’t think of anything that is much more exciting than that.”
More than 1,300 undergraduate, graduate and juris doctor degrees were awarded during three separate Rutgers-Camden ceremonies, all held at the expansive Tweeter Center at the Waterfront. Newly appointed dean of the School of Business-Camden Mitchell Koza offered his first Rutgers commencement address to 243 undergraduate and 46 graduate students during a morning commencement ceremony.
In an afternoon ceremony, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a noted civil rights leader, encouraged 249 graduates of the School of Law-Camden to “get in the way” of injustice. That evening, C. Vivian Stringer, head coach of the Scarlet Knights women’s basketball team, delivered a pep talk for the game of life to 686 undergraduate and 112 graduate students of the Rutgers-Camden College of Arts and Sciences, University College and Graduate School.
“Your diplomas are a down payment on your future and the future of the world …
you are well-equipped, but what are you going to do with it?” Stringer said, challenging the graduates.
– Cathy K. Donovan and Carla Capizzi contributed to this story
This article was published in the May 30, 2006 edition of the Rutgers Focus and is available online at http://urwebsrv.rutgers.edu/focus/article/link/1853/