Leading Advocates for Equality to Receive Honorary Degrees at Rutgers–Camden Commencement

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Judy Perry Martinez, and Judith Persichilli

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Judy Perry Martinez, and Judith Persichilli

By Mike Sepanic

Nikole Hannah-Jones, architect and lead author of The New York Times’ landmark 1619 Project, American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez, and Judith Persichilli, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, will receive honorary degrees from Rutgers University–Camden during commencement ceremonies on Wednesday, May 20, and Thursday, May 21. The Rutgers University Board of Governors announced the honorees at its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 18.

Hannah-Jones will receive a Doctor of Letters degree at the Rutgers University–Camden College of Arts and Sciences ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 20. Martinez will receive a Doctor of Laws degree at the Rutgers Law School ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 21. Persichilli will receive a Doctor of Science degree at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden ceremony at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 20.

“Rutgers–Camden is proud to present honorary degrees to three prominent advocates for equality during commencement this year,” says Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon.

“Throughout her career, Ms. Hannah-Jones has shed light on issues of injustice in our country. Her 1619 Project is a pioneering work that will influence how we must view our national history and the role of slavery in the founding of our nation.

“Ms. Martinez embodies Rutgers–Camden’s deep commitment to public service, including supporting the needs of society and government, promoting diversity and inclusion, and offering access to justice. Similarly, Ms. Persichilli’s lifetime of service has strengthened families, communities, and the overall health of our state,” concludes Haddon.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. She is the architect and lead author of The New York Times Magazine’s landmark 1619 Project, which examines the legacy of slavery in America by acknowledging 1619 as the true founding of the nation. This project, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of slaves from Africa in Jamestown, Va., is only one of Hannah-Jones’ most visible contributions to a vital national dialogue on race.

Throughout her still-early career, Hannah-Jones has authored dozens of articles and long-feature journalism pieces for a range of publications, especially The New York Times. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the George Polk Award in Journalism and a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “Genius Grant.” In 2016, Hannah-Jones founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a training and mentorship organization dedicated to increasing the ranks of investigative reporters of color.

Judy Perry Martinez

As president of the American Bar Association, Martinez leads one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations, with nearly 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. The ABA is committed to improving the legal profession, eliminating bias and enhancing diversity, and advancing the rule of law throughout the United States and around the world. During her long association with the ABA, Martinez has served as chair of the ABA’s Committee on the Federal Judiciary, where she helped evaluate nominees to the federal bench. As chair of the Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services, she worked on shaping laws related to domestic violence. She also served on the Council of the ABA Center on Diversity and on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

She launched her career at a top-rated New Orleans law firm while establishing the New Orleans Pro Bono Project, an organization that promotes and provides opportunities for private sector attorneys to provide free legal services to people and nonprofits in need of assistance.

Judith Persichilli

Persichilli became the first registered nurse to lead the New Jersey Department of Health when she was confirmed as commissioner in January 2020 after serving in an acting capacity since August 2019. A registered nurse with vast experience leading hospitals across New Jersey, Persichilli served as acting chief executive officer (CEO) of University Hospital in Newark, president and CEO of Catholic Health East, and CEO of St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.

She co-founded the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia, which provides fundraising support to organizations throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. Persichilli was awarded the Benemerenti Medal, a papal honor bestowed by Pope Benedict XVI. She was inducted into the New Jersey State Nurses Association Hall of Honor in 2006 and received the 2008 Catholic Charities Richard J. Hughes Humanitarian Award, the Diocese of Trenton’s highest honor.

Rutgers University–Camden will hold five commencement ceremonies at the BB&T Pavilion on the Camden Waterfront on Wednesday, May 20, and Thursday, May 21. More information about Commencement 2020 at Rutgers University–Camden.

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