‘Think of our Network as a Family’

Rutgers-Newark 2024 commencement ceremony
Rutgers–Newark Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Robinson addresses the commencement ceremony in the Prudential Center in Newark on May 15. Photo by Maxim Ryazansky.

Graduates were welcomed into the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA) at commencement ceremonies. They join an organization whose membership has surpassed more than 600,000.

“Excuse me if I scream in your ear!” said the mother of a Rutgers Business School graduate who claimed the empty seat next to me at the Prudential Center near the end of the Rutgers University–Newark ceremony Wednesday that had lasted more than three hours. “That’s my son!”

A moment later, his name was called. He walked across the stage and accepted his diploma with a handshake while she and several others in her group stood and waved and cheered and called out his name. He looked up to them in the stands and returned their smiles with a wave and a gleaming grin.

Many of the almost 18,000 Rutgers graduates and their families duplicated his celebratory walk in multiple commencement and convocation ceremonies held over the past few weeks—many in much smaller ceremonies than the Rutgers University–Newark commencement on Wednesday. That one celebrated more than 3,000 graduates. Families and friends filled most of the available Prudential Center seats, an arena that is home to the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and seats more than 12,000 when the stage is set up as it was Wednesday.

Rutgers-New Brunswick 2024 commencement cermony
Graduates wore rain ponchos in SHI Stadium in Piscataway on Mother's Day. Photo by Ed Murray.

The joy and pride of families and friends and graduates are the thread that ran through all three of the commencement ceremonies I attended, starting with the Rutgers–New Brunswick and Rutgers Health commencement held in SHI Stadium in Piscataway on the Sunday morning of Mother’s Day. 

Three large commencement ceremonies celebrate students at each of the university’s locations, while the numerous convocation ceremonies focus on the university’s 29 individual schools and colleges. A total of 17,977 graduates received degrees, certificates, and diplomas: 13,170 from Rutgers–New Brunswick and Rutgers Health; 3,131 from Rutgers–Newark; and 1,676 from Rutgers–Camden. They include 11,084 baccalaureate degrees, 4,804 master’s degrees, 1,998 doctorates (including professional doctorates), and 91 professional certificates. For more details about specific ceremonies, visit commencement.rutgers.edu and follow Rutgers Today

Jelani Cobb received an honorary doctorate from Rutgers
Jelani Cobb received an honorary doctorate from Rutgers–New Brunswick. Photo by Nick Romanenko.

Despite temperatures in the 50s and an occasional drizzle in Piscataway, enthusiasm for graduates in cap and gown remained high for the crowd that filled much of the lower section of the stadium most noted for Scarlet Knights football games. Among the honorary doctorates was Jelani Cobb—who earned a master of arts and a doctorate in American history from Rutgers–New Brunswick in 2003. Cobb added a second Rutgers doctorate on Sunday when he was awarded an honorary doctor of letters during the university’s 258th anniversary commencement ceremony. Through his books, New Yorker articles, and teaching and serving as an administrator at prestigious universities—including Columbia University, where he is dean of the journalism school—Cobb is a leading voice in the national conversation on how race, politics, history, and popular culture intersect. Read more about his story in his own words in a Rutgers University Foundation feature from October 2022.

New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis address the 2024 Rutgers Law School in Camden commencement ceremony
New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis spoke to the Law School ceremony in Camden. Photo by Avi Steinhardt.

At the Rutgers–Camden commencement ceremony on Tuesday, families and friends joined their graduates under the cover of the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion, the site of numerous riverfront concerts. Cheers rang out for students earning doctoral degrees who received their hoods and master’s degree graduates who crossed the stage when their names were called to cheers and an occasional air horn. Ceremonies for undergraduate and law graduates followed over the next two days. The Rutgers Law School in Camden ceremony featured a keynote speech by New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, a 2002 political science graduate of Rutgers–New Brunswick who went on to earn her juris doctorate at Rutgers Law School in Camden. 

Rutgers University Alumni Association Vice Chair Gloria Vanderham at commencement
RUAA Chair Gloria Vanderham spoke to graduates in SHI Stadium. Photo by Nick Romanenko.

Rutgers University Alumni Association Chair Gloria Vanderham RC’00, SCILS’00 addressed graduates at the Rutgers–New Brunswick ceremony. “You are part of a global community, a powerful network that now numbers more than 600,000 who want to help you succeed,” she said. “We invite you to think of our network as a family. It’s one I’m proud to belong to and one that is always here for you. No matter what path you follow, no matter where you call home, you have a lifeline connection to Rutgers and to all other Rutgers alumni.”

RUAA vice chairs Talib Morgan NCAS’96, RBS’98 and Chris Maizys LC’93 delivered similar messages of welcome to the graduates at Rutgers–Newark and Rutgers–Camden ceremonies, encouraging students to follow the WE ARE YOU series and update information with the RUAA online.



WE ARE YOU is an ongoing series of stories about the people who embody Rutgers University’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence, building community, and the common good.


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