Dear Rutgers University – Newark community members,
The Rutgers-Newark community joins Newarkers and New Jerseyans in profound sadness at the loss of one of the greatest champions of justice our university, our city, and our state have ever known, former State Senator Ron Rice. I truly can’t think of an alum more emblematic of our institution and what we stand for than him.
We are an anchor institution in Newark—striving always to do what it takes to cultivate the talent of today to be the leaders of tomorrow. Senator Rice embodied that perfectly, showing us what it means to cultivate one’s talents and put them to work for the public good.
He did that himself by sharing his time generously with our students, exhibiting a dedication to raising up new generations committed to making the world a more just place, which led us to create the Ron Rice Lecture Series on Criminal Justice and Public Policy in 2014 in the School of Criminal Justice, where he had received his master’s degree. His impact has been felt by thousands of change-makers prepared to do the people’s work and pursue public service at the highest levels, walking in his footsteps.
In fact, it is not a stretch to say that as an institution we walk the path he carved while serving in the New Jersey State Senate longer than anyone else. Throughout his illustrious career, Ron modelled what collective mobilization looks like at its best, teaching us all how to work in the service of the public, whether in creating educational opportunity, addressing issues of criminal justice and policing broadly construed, ensuring protection for citizens from eviction and access to affordable housing, examining the toxic impact of environmental pollution on our neighborhoods, and the need for relentless advocacy for health equity, and caring, really caring, about the racial wealth gap and the disparate impact of mass incarceration. Indeed, the resonance between Ron’s legislative achievements and our aspirations as a public institution were recognized earlier this year by the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus when it established the Senator Ronald L. Rice Endowed Scholarship at Rutgers-Newark in his honor.
While we are deeply saddened at the loss of Ron’s courageous leadership in the Senate and his fierce advocacy in the halls of government, we are profoundly grateful for the legacy of his lifelong commitment to Newark and to make real the promise of genuinely equal opportunity for all. The example of his courage in the unrelenting pursuit of a more just and equitable community, state, nation, and world will continue to inspire us.