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Rutgers University-Newark 2017 Commencement

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Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) celebrated the graduation of 2,300 students at its main commencement ceremony May 17 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Welcomed by Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, and Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi, the students heard inspiring words from outgoing Student Governing Association President Rahimah Faiq, Student Commencement Speaker Adebimpe Daniells, and featured speaker Dr. Eboo Patel, a global thought leader on interfaith collaboration and understanding. Patel received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree; he was joined in this honor by Dr. Arthur James Hicks, program director of the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program, who received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Patel, chief executive officer of the Interfaith Youth Core (IYC), took the opportunity of addressing the graduates to urge them to work together in common cause across difference, drawing upon the analogy of the familiar children’s story “Stone Soup.” As founder and director of IYC, Patel leads a global network that promotes a critical mass of interfaith leaders across higher education to change public discourse about religion from one of inevitable conflict to one of cooperation, and partners with college campuses to build successful models of interfaith support and collaboration. As noted in the nomination for Patel, “[he] is one of the most influential people in the world working in the arena of promoting intercultural understanding. President Obama appointed him to help create the White House Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which is now active at more than 250 colleges and universities nationwide with a total of more than 50,000 people involved in interfaith service and engagement programs.”

Under Hicks’ decades-long leadership of the national LSAMP program, it has helped more than 600,000 students from groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) earn degrees in those disciplines through a network of more than 600 colleges, universities, and partner alliances. Rutgers-Newark is the hub of the state-wide Garden State LSAMP Program.

In one of the ceremony’s most emotional moments, Darryl Henry of Newark was greeted with a standing ovation and many tears as he received the diploma earned by his late son, Mujahid, 23, who tragically lost his life when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver just days before commencement.