Thursday, May 22, 2014

Graduation Photos

Here are a few photos from yesterday's Rutgers-Newark's 2014 Commencement, the first I've attended (I was out of town last spring), and the first ever held in the Prudential Center, where the New Jersey Devils ice hockey and other sports teams play. It also was the first Commencement that our new chancellor, Nancy Cantor, presided over.

It is always so inspiring and invigorating to see students graduating, and given the challenging journeys that many of my current students have made to get to and through school, I am so deeply proud of and happy for them. I saw a number of them as I marched in with the faculty, and got to congratulate them in person on receiving their degrees; I beamed and cheered as several received graduation honors.

As is widely known, there was considerable controversy surrounding the selection of former US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of the architects of the disastrous Iraq War and a chief actor in the disgraced George W. Bush regime, as Rutgers' New Brunswick commencement speaker. She was to receive not just an honorary degree, but $30,000 as well. Student, faculty (including yours truly) and alumni petitions and protests over her selection and way she was selected, as well as the fee she was to receive, however, led her to withdraw.

At Rutgers-Newark, there thankfully was no brouhaha at all surrounding our commencement speaker, Don Katz, an noted author, former journalist and the CEO of Newark-based Audible, Inc., the largest global producer of downloadable audiobooks. (If you listen to any, you probably have an Audible, Inc. product flowing through your ears. And yes, it is an Amazon company....) He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Ironically because of the arena's audio situation, which created a doubling effect for certain speakers, including Katz, I could not make out much of what he said.

The ceremony itself went very long (degrees were conferred by school, with the names of students from every division, save the Law School, read aloud), but we received an assurance that this approach is thankfully under review.

Afterwards the MFA Program in Creative Writing held a party for this year's graduates, and all three of my wonderful thesis advisees, Adam Bowser, Craig Chanin and Serena Lin, and their families and friends, along with all the other MFA graduates I've had the opportunity to work with, were present, so although I had risen very early to get to the Prudential Center by 7 AM and had been flagging, I felt momentarily revived.

To the 2014 graduates and their families, congratulations again!

Lining up before the march in,
faculty at left, students at right
Students lined up (including
some I've taught!) 
The Prudential Center, before the students
and faculty enter
Procession of the schools
(led by my colleague Professor Rob Schneider,
head of the American Studies Program
Graduates on screen
A full arena! 
Don Katz, Audible, Inc. CEO
giving his commencement speech
At the MFA party, from left, Adam
Bowser, a friend of Serena Lin's,
 Serena's brother, and Serena 
Another photo of the MFA party,
with my colleague Alice Elliot Dark
in the foreground, and graduates
Jake Slovis (l) and Dana Jaye Cadman (r)
Serena, my colleague Tayari
Jones, and yours truly, in regalia
(and barely standing!)
Photo © Serena Lin

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