Commencement 2017 Speakers


R-UN Commencement Ceremony Speaker: Eboo Patel

Rutgers University–Newark is pleased to present this year’s Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker, Eboo Patel, the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a national nonprofit organization working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm.

Patel is a leading voice in the movement for interfaith cooperation. For more than 15 years, he has worked with governments, social sector organizations, colleges, and universities to help realize a future where religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. He is a regular contributor to the public conversation around religion in America and a frequent speaker on the topic of religious pluralism. Named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Patel served on President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council, 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.

Patel holds a doctoral degree in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. He is the author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (Beacon Press, 2010); Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America (Beacon Press, 2013); and Interfaith Leadership: A Primer (Beacon Press, 2016).

Quotes by Eboo include: 

     “To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition, but because of it, is the heart of pluralism.” – Acts of Faith

“Pluralism is not a birthright in America; it’s a responsibility. Pluralism does not fall from the sky; it does not rise up from the ground. People have fought for pluralism. People have kept the promise. America is exceptional not because there is magic in our air but because there is fierce determination in our citizens.” – Sacred Ground


Graduate School Hooding Ceremony Speaker:
Mary Rizzo

Rutgers University–Newark is proud to welcome as the speaker for this year’s hooding ceremony of the Graduate School, Mary Rizzo, assistant professor of professional practice of RU-N’s Department of History and associate director of the Digital and Public Humanities Initiatives of RU-N’s Graduate Program in American Studies. 

For the last decade, Rizzo has built a career in public history and the public humanities. When she joined the RU–N faculty in 2015, the application of her skills and experiences broadened to encompass teaching, community-based projects, and digital humanities activities. In addition to teaching graduate courses in history and American studies and serving as a trustee on the Newark Preservation and Landmark Committee, Rizzo’s public and digital humanities projects include creator of the Chicory Digital Archive of African American Poetry, chief curator of the From Rebellion to Review Board: Newark Fights for Police Accountability Exhibit, and co-founder and chair of the Telling Untold Histories Unconference.

Through Rizzo’s leadership efforts, Chicory, a forgotten magazine of poetry, art, and literature by predominantly African-American residents of Baltimore, Maryland, now is available online. With assistance from RU-N undergraduate and graduate students and a team of community and scholarly advisers, Rizzo brought to fruition the From Rebellion to Review Board: Newark Fights for Police Accountability Exhibit and its online version, which memorialize community responses to police misconduct in Newark since the 1960s. And, through the “radically democratic” Telling Untold Histories Unconference, Rizzo annually convenes public historians, librarians, archivists, educators, artists, students, and members of the public to discuss ways to ensure that history told in U.S. cultural, historical, and educational institutions represents the diversity of the country’s many communities, past and present.

A prolific writer, Rizzo is the author of Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, 1945-2000 (University of Nevada Press, 2015), and her writings have appeared in numerous publications including Museums & Social Issues, Public: A Journal of Imagining America, Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, and International Journal of Heritage Studies. Rizzo currently serves on the editorial board of New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Rizzo is a recipient of the Maryland Historical Society’s Lord Baltimore Research Fellowship (2015) and, along with her project team members, the Clement A. Price Human Dignity Award for Queer Newark Oral History Project (2016). She received her bachelor’s degree in history, summa cum laude, from The College of New Jersey in 1997 and earned her doctoral degree in American studies from the University of Minnesota in 2005.


Rutgers Business School Speaker: Steve Forbes

Rutgers University–Newark proudly welcomes Steve Forbes, chair and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, as speaker for the 2017 Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick graduate convocation.

Since 1990, Forbes has served as the editor-in-chief of Forbes, one of the nation’s leading business magazines, with a circulation of more than 900,000. Forbes, combined with Forbes Asia, Forbes Europe, and the company’s licensee editions, reaches a worldwide audience of more than 5,000,000 readers, and receives more than 80,000,000 unique visitors per month.

Forbes writes editorials for Forbes under the heading of “Fact and Comment.” A widely respected economic prognosticator, he is the only writer to have won the highly prestigious Crystal Owl Award four times. The prize was formerly given by U.S. Steel Corporation to the financial journalist whose economic forecasts for the coming year proved most accurate.

In both 1996 and 2000, Forbes campaigned vigorously for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. Key to his platform were a flat tax, medical savings accounts, a new Social Security system for working Americans, parental choice of schools for their children, term limits, and a strong national defense. Forbes continues to energetically promote this agenda.

Forbes’s numerous books include: Reviving America: How Repealing Obamacare, Replacing the Tax Code and Reforming the Fed will Restore Hope and Prosperity (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2015); Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy – and What We Can Do About It (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2014); Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets are Moral and Big Government Isn’t (Crown Business, August 2012); and How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People and Free Markets Are the Best Answer in Today’s Economy (Crown Business, November 2009) – each co-authored with Elizabeth Ames. His other books include: Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today…and the Lessons You Can Learn, co-authored by John Prevas (Crown Business, June 2009); Flat Tax Revolution: Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS (Regnery, 2005); and A New Birth of Freedom (Regnery, 1999).

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan named Forbes chair of the bipartisan Board for International Broadcasting (BIB). In this position, he oversaw the operations of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Broadcasting behind the Iron Curtain, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were praised by Poland’s Lech Walesa as being critical to the struggle against communism. After reappointment by President George H. W. Bush, Forbes served in this post until 1993.

Forbes currently serves on the boards of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, the Heritage Foundation and The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Board of Visitors for the School of Public Policy of Pepperdine University. He previously served on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University for 10 years.

A native of Morristown, New Jersey, Forbes received a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton in 1970.


Rutgers School of Law Convocation Ceremony Speaker: Hon. Patty Shwartz

Rutgers University–Newark is pleased to welcome as the convocation speaker for Rutgers Law School, The Honorable Patty Shwartz, a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a Rutgers University alumna.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Judge Shwartz earned her bachelor’s degree, with highest honors, from Rutgers College. She received her juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she served as a member of the Law Review and was named the Outstanding Woman Law Graduate of her class. Following law school, Judge Shwartz began her law career as an associate at the law firm then known as Pepper, Hamilton, & Scheetz (now Pepper Hamilton LLP) in Philadelphia and thereafter served as a law clerk to the Honorable Harold A. Ackerman, United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey. After her clerkship, Judge Shwartz served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of New Jersey. While at the United States Attorney’s Office, she held various supervisory positions, including Criminal Chief and Executive Assistant United States Attorney. From 2003 until her appointment to the Court of Appeals, Judge Shwartz served as a United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Judge Shwartz serves on several court committees and is presently chair of the Third Circuit Judicial Council’s Magistrate Judges Committee and vice chair of the Third Circuit Judicial Council’s Facilities and Security Committee. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, the Advisory Board for the Association of the Federal Bar, and a member of the Executive Committee of the John C. Lifland Inn of Court. Judge Shwartz is a fellow of the American Bar Association, and was the Third Circuit’s representative to the Board of Directors of the Federal Magistrate Judges Association.

Judge Shwartz is an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and lecturer at Rutgers Law School.

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