Eric LeGrand to speak at commencement despite Rutgers' 'miscommunication'


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Photo by Marielle Sumergido |

Although former N.J. Gov. Thomas Kean is the scheduled commencement speaker for the class of 2014 commencement, Eric LeGrand will have his turn on the podium.

According to a statement from Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi, LeGrand will speak and receive his degree from Barchi personally.

The statement came in light of an announcement on LeGrand’s Twitter yesterday that he was initially offered the spot, but the invitation was later rescinded.

“Rutgers offered me the commencement speech this weekend and I was going to accept but they decided to go other ways for political reasons,” said the tweet, which was retweeted more than 800 times.

LeGrand is a former defensive tackle for Rutgers who was paralyzed from the neck down in a sports injury. In January, he earned his degree in labor studies, and has won several awards for his efforts, including the retirement of his jersey.

According to USA Today, LeGrand initially received the invitation from Gregory Jackson, chief of staff for Barchi, while he was enjoying dinner in Florida.

He accepted the offer and was in “the beginning stages of planning his speech” Monday when he got a call from Athletic Director Julie Hermann informing him of a change.

"I'm very upset about it," he said, according to USA Today. "I was all excited all weekend thinking about what I was going to say. It's rough."

Hermann and Jason Baum, head of external communication for athletics, could not be reached by press time.

LeGrand tweeted today about Barchi’s statement, saying he would indeed be joining Kean as one of the commencement speakers.

In his statement, Barchi called the affair a miscommunication and said LeGrand was never meant to be the only speaker.

“Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community,” Barchi said in the statement. “We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion ever more memorable.”

He did not specify in what capacity LeGrand would be speaking or whether he would be doing it alongside Kean.

LeGrand’s agent would not speak to press sources individually.


Erin Petenko

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