Rutgers–Camden Celebrates Class of 2019

By Tom McLaughlin

Graduates of Rutgers University-Camden were encouraged to be champions for social justice and a force for good as they take their place to shape the country’s future during recent commencement ceremonies.

Pictured (l to r) is Neal Katyal, former Acting U.S. Solicitor General; Kimberly Mutcherson, co-dean of the Rutgers Law School in Camden; Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon; and Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive officer and board chair of Merck & Co.

“It cannot be denied that we live in troubling times and face challenges that threaten our social fabric and commitments,” Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon told the more than 3,000 in attendance at the College of Arts and Sciences ceremony. “We look forward to you, graduates, using your hearts, talents, and intellect, to move us onward.”

The university awarded a total of 1,654 undergraduate and graduate degrees during two days of ceremonies May 22 and 23 at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden.

Neal Katyal, the former Acting U.S. Solicitor General – who surpassed Thurgood Marshall as the minority attorney who has argued the most U.S. Supreme Court cases in the history of the United States – and Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive officer and board chair of Merck & Co., received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees at the Rutgers Law School in Camden ceremony.

Frazier was among the who’s who of prominent speakers to address Class of 2019 graduates. He talked about his childhood and what inspired him to fight for a better world with the graduates.

After his mother died, Frazier’s father raised him and his siblings on his own in North Philadelphia, working full-time as a janitor to make ends meet. It was in those early, formative years, he said, when he witnessed many injustices and was inspired by people such as Thurgood Marshall to use the “law’s potential to create a better and more just world.”

Graduates proceed from the stage after receiving their diplomas at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden ceremony.

“It was the spirit of this crusade that inspired me to go to law school, and it is the same spirit that gives me the impetus to speak with you today,” said Frazier, who further noted that his law degree wasn’t just a path to success, but his “ticket to adventure.”

“I can scarcely imagine what kind of adventure is in store for each of you,” he said, “because it is not only the places you will go, but the people you will meet that will shape – and perhaps transform – your lives.”

Katyal told the Rutgers Law School graduates that, although they will be diverse in their respective careers, they will share the ability to safeguard basic human rights and – in doing so – “defend the idea of America.” View the full transcript of Katyal’s speech.

“And that is, that we are a nation of laws, not of men,” said Katyal. “We do justice according to the law, not according to the person.”

Katyal stressed that this principle – “a bedrock of our Constitution” – is today “under attack.” He defended the notion of representing the unpopular, underscoring the importance of not vilifying attorneys who defend our enemies.

“We defend them and we celebrate their service,” he said. “That is the ethos of our profession.”

Katyal further offered several pieces of time-honored advice to the graduates: be yourself, be passionate, let go of envy, and remember the importance of family.

“For almost all of you,” Katyal said, “your sitting here is the product of your hard work, but also hard work by your mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, friends, teachers, and others.”

Thomas Dahan is hooded upon receiving his Ph.D. in public affairs.

Wendy Osefo, an assistant professor of education at Johns Hopkins University and a national political commentator, delivered remarks at The Graduate School commencement, noting the privilege of doing so on her birthday – while she is seven months pregnant and only three years removed from graduating herself.

“My message is simple: Grow where you are planted and get comfortable being uncomfortable,” said Osefo, a 2016 graduate of Rutgers–Camden with a Ph.D. in public affairs.

Osefo recalled her parents’ own sacrifice and resilience in traveling from their native Nigeria to earn medical degrees – but working hard in menial jobs along the way to make their dream a reality.

“Take the step in the right direction even if it does not match what your long-term goals are,’’ she said. “There is not one route to success, nor does success have an expiration date.”

Patrick Harker, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, spoke about the unbridled power of resilience to graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences. Read the full transcript of Harker’s speech.

“I want you to know,” Harker said, “whatever privilege you may or may not have, whatever hurdles are or aren’t in the way, that resilience you have – that’s an advantage that puts you 10 yards ahead of everyone else. That’s your superpower.”

Harker posited how this resilience will benefit the graduates in times of disappointment, center them in times of doubt, and enable them to experience more joy and fulfillment from seeing “the true value in things.” Moreover, he said, it will allow them to recognize the importance of being there for others.

“That resilience makes you exceptional,” said Harker. “Don’t ever doubt that, and don’t ever forget it. I can’t wait for you to go out in the world and use your superpower. I can’t wait to see the good you do and the change you unleash.”

Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association – the first African American to hold the position – spoke to graduates of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, extolling “the power of nursing” that goes beyond the means of delivering expert care, healing, and comfort.

Pictured (left to right) is Howard Marchitello, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers–Camden; Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon; Patrick Harker, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; and Rutgers University President Robert Barchi

“It is a force for good – lighting the way to a safer and healthier society, to a more just and equitable society, and to a better world,” said Grant. “It is a catalyst for changing lives.”

Grant emphasized that, no matter where the graduates’ journeys takes them, their lives and careers will have an impact. He challenged them to stay active in advancing their profession – with the goal of improving health care for all – and to be mindful of the roles that nurses play in improving the qualities of care and life in their communities and society in general.

He affirmed that, ultimately, within every nurse is the power to be a leader, which begins with their role as advocates – one that extends beyond the institutions that they serve. He challenged them to think critically about how their communities could change for the better, and to think about the roles that they could play in effecting that change.

“I can tell you, from my own experience,” said Grant, “when the time comes, you will know what to do.”

Frank Giordano, president and CEO of the Philly POPS and executive director of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, shared with fellow graduates of his alma mater – Rutgers School of Business–Camden – a handful of simple self-made principles that have guided his success. View the full transcript of Giordano’s speech.

“I believe more than anything, the game of business is a game of attrition. My number one rule is: ‘Never, ever give up,’” said the 1972 graduate, who also noted the power of consistency, the lessons that can be learned from failure, and the importance of rejecting imaginary limitations.

Quoting famed psychologist Albert Ellis, Giordano also explained the importance of taking ownership of results, as well as the significance of taking on the challenge of a difficult problem.

“And that is what I finally understood my education from Rutgers School of Business–Camden was really about,” he said.

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