Commencement 2012

The Honorable Thomas H. Kean

Rutgers University is proud to welcome as the speaker for this year’s convocation ceremony for the Newark College of Arts and Sciences and University College—Newark, The Honorable Thomas H. Kean, former governor of the state of New Jersey, former president of Drew University, and former chair of the 9/11 Commission on Terrorist Attacks.

In 2002, President George W. Bush named Kean to head the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The Commission’s work culminated on July 22, 2004, with the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, which quickly became a national bestseller. Its recommendations resulted in the largest intelligence reform in the nation’s history. Kean served as the chairman of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a nonprofit entity created with private funds to continue the commission’s work of guarding against future attacks.

As Governor of New Jersey from 1982-1990, Kean was rated among America’s most effective state leaders by Newsweek magazine and noted for tax cuts that spurred 750,000 new jobs, a federally replicated welfare reform program, landmark environmental policies, and more than 30 education reforms. During his governorship, as a leading advocate for the arts, he also appointed the committee that selected Newark as the location of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and selected the planning commission that helped to make NJPAC one of the country’s premier performing arts centers. Kean delivered the keynote  address at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He was re-elected for a second term by the largest margin in state history. While Governor, Kean served on the President’s Education Policy Advisory Committee and as chair of the Education Commission of the States and the National Governor’s Association Task Force on Teaching. He remains one of the most popular governors in New Jersey’s history.

Many have referred to Kean as the “education governor.” His advocacy for excellence in higher education in New Jersey began while he was a junior member of the New Jersey General Assembly where he was one of the primary sponsors of legislation that established the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) in 1968. EOF is a state-funded program that provides special assistance to low-income, first-generation college students, and was implemented at Rutgers-Newark during its inaugural year. It has enabled thousands of Rutgers-Newark students to obtain a college degree.

From 1990-2005, Kean served as president of Drew University. During his 15-year tenure, he focused on shaping Drew into one of the nation’s leading small liberal arts universities by stressing the primacy of teaching, the creative use of technology in the liberal arts, and the importance of international education. During Kean’s presidency, applications to Drew increased by more than 40%, the endowment nearly tripled, and more than $60 million was committed to construction of new buildings and renovation of older buildings, principally student residence halls. From 2010-2011, Kean chaired the Higher Education Task Force, which was established by Governor Chris Christie to provide a critical review and recommendations to improve infrastructure, increase accessibility and  promote excellence in the state’s institutions of higher learning.

Kean served on several national committees and commissions. He headed the American delegation to the UN Conference on Youth in Thailand, served as vice chairman of the American delegation to the World Conference on Women in Beijing, and served as a member of President Clinton’s Initiative on Race. He also served on the National Endowment for Democracy. He holds more than 30 honorary degrees and numerous awards from environmental and educational organizations.

Kean currently serves as chairman of the board of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy. In addition, he serves on a number of corporate boards and is chair of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and is the former chair of Educate America, the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation and the Newark Alliance. He is co-chairman with Congressman Lee Hamilton of the National Security Preparedness Group. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, American Academy of Art & Sciences and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

The recipient of numerous awards, Kean’s many accolades include the Frederick Heldring Global Leadership Award; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Award for Advocacy of Independent Higher Education; Four Freedoms Award; NAACP Man of the Year; Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service; Heart of Gold Award (Freedom Foundation Award); Statesman of our Decade (LD Access Foundation); New Jersey Alliance for Action Lifetime Achievement Award; The Woodrow Wilson Award (Princeton University); Building Bridges Award (presented by Voices of September 11); National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award; Visionary Leadership Award (Christopher Reeve Foundation); and Jefferson Award for Public Service (American Institute for Public Service).

Kean holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and master’s degree from Columbia University Teachers College and has served as a trustee of both institutions. He is the author of The Politics of Inclusion, published by The Free Press and is co-author of Without Precedent, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. He writes a regular column for The Star-Ledger with former Governor Brendan Byrne and appears as a regular commentator on New Jersey Network News. He and his wife, Deborah, have twin sons and one daughter.


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