Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Bon Jovi to give keynote to crowd of 3,000 at Rutgers-Camden graduation
CAMDEN — Rutgers-Camden has so far given out 3,000 tickets to Thursday's convocation ceremony, where Jon Bon Jovi is scheduled to give a keynote address to 293 graduate students set receive their doctorates and master's degrees, as well as their families, other students and those who are just interested in hearing what the rocker-turned-philanthropist has to say.
The campus doesn't normally require tickets to attend convocation — scheduled for 9 a.m. at the 7,000-seat Susquehanna Bank Center — but then again, the school has never had a keynote speaker who has attracted this much attention.
"I've been going to a lot of Rutgers-Camden commencements, and this is the only one, since I can remember, that we required tickets," said campus spokesman Mike Sepanic on Tuesday. "The tickets are free, and we are giving them out generously and liberally, but we wanted to first-and-foremost ensure that the graduating students and their families have all of the tickets they need.
"Folks who aren't graduating can still get free tickets, but only one per person," he later added. "We also are using the tickets to ensure that the graduates and their families get priority seating."
Campus officials along with Camden County have issued traffic alerts for Thursday, warning of increased congestion and possible delays on roads leading to Rutgers-Camden and the city waterfront.
A total of 1,749 Rutgers-Camden students are expected to receive their diplomas at ceremonies throughout the day, including graduates of the campus' nursing, business and law schools, as well as the college of arts and sciences and University College.
Rutgers-Camden will also bestow Bon Jovi with an honorary doctorate degree in letters. According to Sepanic, the school's decision to honor the New Jersey native stems partly from his recent charity work through the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.
Founded in 2006, the nonprofit has assisted in providing homes to low-income families throughout the Delaware Valley and New Jersey. In Camden, the foundation has helped fund Joseph's House, a homeless shelter in the city, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to community groups that clean up vacant lots and rehabilitate vacant houses.
"We're honoring him for what he has done in the community, but also his foundation's work across the state, including donations to Hurricane Sandy restoration," said Sepanic. "We are the state university of New Jersey after all, so it's appropriate that we honor a Jersey Boy like him."
However, Bon Jovi will not be the only honoree scheduled to give a keynote during this year's convocation.
Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, will also speak at the Rutgers-Camden convocation, in addition to receiving an honorary law doctorate.
Stevenson's career as a lawyer has been defined by his work on behalf of the poor and incarcerated. Under his leadership, the EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row inmates, confronting abusive prison conditions and aiding minors who are prosecuted as adults.
"He is one of the leading voices today in issues concerning equal justice under the law," said Sepanic. "That is a topic that is receiving a lot of attention these days, and so we felt it was just as important to honor Mr. Stevenson and invite him to come and give a keynote as well."