RU-N Announces Commencement Speaker and Honorees
Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) will recognize two exceptional individuals, Eboo Patel and Arthur James Hicks, with honorary degrees at its May 17 commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center.
On Oct. 7, the Rutgers Board of Governors approved the selection of Patel, chief executive officer of the Interfaith Youth Core (IYC), to receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, while Hicks, program director of the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), will be given an Honorary Doctor of Science. Patel also will deliver RU-N’s main commencement address.
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.”
According to RU-N Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Patel is the ideal candidate to receive an honorary degree from, and be commencement speaker for, RU-N. “His message and mode of promoting change through intergroup dialogue are deeply meaningful at RU-N, which is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most diverse research universities, where there is no majority ethnic group in the student body and which reflects extensive religious diversity.”
"When the political climate of this country is at a tipping point, when marginalized communities are mourning the losses of their loved ones, when diversity is not a goal but the reality, we need to bridge the gaps. I'm confident that Dr. Patel's work is a framework for how we bridge those gaps, how we grow from disagreement,” shared Rahimah Faiq, president of the RU-N Student Governing Association. “It starts at a place as simple as a thoughtful conversation. I look forward to hearing Dr. Patel's views and his incorporation of interfaith dialogue as a model for discourse at every intersection of our layered identities. As Dr. Patel's work indicates, the space for these interactions is in conversation." Faiq, along with Shirley Collado, RU-N executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer, and Jerome Williams, RU-N executive vice chancellor and provost, co-nominated Patel.
Patel received his doctoral degree from the University of Oxford and his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of four books, including his popular autobiography, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (Beacon Press, 2007).
Hicks will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree for his endless collaborative efforts with LSAMP, the United States Congress, and more than 600 colleges, universities, and partner alliances to strengthen the quality and quantity of underrepresented minority students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
“Because of Dr. Hicks's strong leadership of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, more than 509,000 underrepresented minority students have earned bachelor’s degrees in STEM,” stated Alexander Gates, professor of earth and environmental sciences at RU-N, who nominated Hicks for the honorary degree and is the principal investigator of the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.
Hicks has served as program director of the award-winning diversity program for 19 of its 25 years of existence. Formerly known as the Alliance for Minority Participation, shortly following his appointment as program director in 1997, Hicks renamed the program in honor of former Congressman Louis Stokes.
Hicks is an alumnus of Tougaloo College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in biology with high honors. He taught high school science before participating in National Science Foundation traineeships, first at Southern Illinois University in 1961 and later at Temple University. He entered the doctoral program at University of Illinois, Urbana in 1965, where he earned his doctorate in botany, and received postdoctoral training at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1971, Hicks became the first African-American scientist to be employed at the University of Georgia. He subsequently moved to North Carolina A&T where he served as chair and professor of biology and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. After 30 years in higher education, he eventually took a post with the National Science Foundation.
Hicks has won numerous awards and honors including a Faculty Award for Science and Technology from the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 1988 and the 2005 Emerald Honor from Science Spectrum.
Both Patel and Hicks were nominated by members of the RU-N community and selected from a field evaluated by an RU-N committee of faculty, staff, and students.