Sister Mary Scullion, Raymond Ackerman Headline Commencement Speakers for Rutgers University–Camden on May 18 and 19

CAMDEN — Sister Mary Scullion and Raymond Ackerman are among the speakers who will deliver keynote addresses during commencement ceremonies for the graduating Class of 2016 at Rutgers University–Camden.

Sister Mary Scullion will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters from Rutgers University–Camden.

Sister Mary Scullion will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters from Rutgers University–Camden.

The Rutgers Board of Governors announced the selections during its regularly scheduled meeting on April 6. Rutgers will present honorary degrees to Scullion and Ackerman.

More than 1,100 students will receive their bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and Juris Doctor degrees during four separate events on Wednesday, May 18, and Thursday, May 19. All ceremonies will take place at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden.

Scullion, co-founder of Philadelphia-based Project HOME, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree and deliver a keynote speech during the commencement ceremony for the Rutgers Law School at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 19.

Scullion has been involved in service work and advocacy for homeless and mentally ill persons since 1978. She was a co-founder, in 1985, of Woman of Hope, which provides permanent residential and support services for homeless, mentally ill women. In 1988, Scullion founded the first Outreach Coordination Center in the United States, and in 1989 founded Project HOME with Joan Dawson McConnon.

A nationally recognized organization, Project HOME has helped more than 8,000 people break the cycle of homelessness and poverty by providing a continuum of care that includes street outreach, supportive housing, and comprehensive services that focus on health care, education, and employment through both adult and youth education and enrichment programs.

Ackerman, a South African entrepreneur and philanthropist whose leadership fought for equality and inclusion against incredible odds during the apartheid era, is the founder of Pick n Pay, the second largest supermarket chain store in South Africa. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree during commencement for the Rutgers School of Business–Camden at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 19.

Under Ackerman’s leadership, Pick n Pay has flourished as one of Africa’s largest supermarket chains with more than 80,000 employees across the continent in both corporate and franchise stores. Ackerman is widely recognized as one of the foremost philanthropists in the country, and the company has served as a model for accelerating business opportunities for small and emerging businesses.

Raymond Ackerman, a South African entrepreneur and philanthropist , will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Raymond Ackerman, a South African entrepreneur and philanthropist , will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

His business philosophy supports business and life opportunities for employees and suppliers, commits to environmental sustainability, and provides support to entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds by giving them opportunities to enter the company’s supply chain. Ackerman has been lauded as one of the “100 most influential South Africans to have shaped the 20th century” by citizens of South Africa and has received numerous awards, honorary degrees, and other recognitions for his wide range of investments in assisting economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

Wallena Gould, founder of the nonprofit organization Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program, will deliver the keynote address during the commencement ceremony for the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 18.

Gould is the chief nurse anesthetist at Main Line Endoscopy Centers in Pennsylvania. She mentors underrepresented minority registered nurses to successfully matriculate into nurse anesthesia programs across the country. For the past 10 years, she has made great strides in increasing minority enrollment in 54 graduate nurse anesthesia programs. As a result, over 400 certified registered nurse anesthetists who participated in her program were accepted and graduated from their respective programs.

Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, transformation director for Pick N Pay and Raymond Ackerman’s daughter, will deliver the keynote speech during the Rutgers School of Business–Camden ceremony. Ackerman-Berman assists many new entrepreneurs in all aspects of business and life skills through a detailed mentorship program that ensures their sustainability as suppliers to the broader economy. During her 20 years with Pick n Pay, Ackerman-Berman has remained a passionate proponent of equality, job creation, and skills development. In 2007, she founded a small business incubator that seeks to address the social and economic inequalities of the past created by the Apartheid era.

The Hon. Faustino Fernandez-Vina, a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, will deliver a keynote address for the Rutgers Law School. Sworn into office in Nov. 2013, Justice Fernandez-Vina first sat in the civil division of the Camden Vicinage. He moved to the family division in 2006 and was named presiding judge of the civil division in 2007. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named him assignment judge of the Camden Vicinage on Jan. 11, 2012.

A graduate of Widener University and Rutgers Law School at Camden, Justice Fernandez-Vina has served on the District IV Ethics Committee, the Supreme Court Committee on Character, and the Supreme Court Committee on Jury Selection. He has also served on the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Supreme Court Civil Practice Committee.

Lisa Ciaranca Kaplan, principal of the Andrew Jackson School in Philadelphia, will deliver the keynote address for the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences. Kaplan has been involved in education development for 30 years, focusing on effective teaching, special education, college-to-career readiness, English as a second language, positive behavior support, and promoting community volunteerism and partnerships in public schools.

She is the author of Access to the Core Curriculum, Strategies Guide to Effective Teaching and has trained teachers, principals, and school staff on special education supports and services and inclusionary practices. In 2015, Kaplan received the Escalante-Gradillas Prize from The Best Schools and was named National Principal of the Year. She received the Columbus Forum Award for Administrator of the Year, the Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Award, and the ING Unsung Heroes Award.

For more information about commencement ceremonies at Rutgers–Camden, visit

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