April 23, 2019 | 61° F

Rutgers-Newark and Camden announce 2018 commencement speakers

Photo by Wikimedia |

Queen Latifah — alongside Anita Hill who will present at Rutgers—Camden — is the 2018 commencement speaker for Rutgers—Newark. The East Orange native will speak in front of this year’s graduating class on May 14 at the Prudential Center.

Queen Latifah and Anita Hill will be the 2018 commencement speakers for Rutgers—Newark and Rutgers—Camden respectively, according to Rutgers spokesperson, Dory Devlin. 

The speaker for the New Brunswick campus has yet to be chosen. 

The decision became official at the Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday at the Rutgers—Newark campus after students, faculty and staff selected the two icons. The keynote speakers will receive honorary degrees from the University to add to their long lists of accomplishments. 

Latifah was born in Newark and raised in East Orange, NJ. According to a press release, Rutgers will welcome back home the Newark-native on May 14 at the Prudential Center to recognize the thousands of graduates in scarlet cap and gown. 

“Queen Latifah is inspiring to us as students because she always projects herself through her work as a strong woman,” said Adebimpe Elegbeleye, a Rutgers—Newark undergraduate who served on the commencement selection committee. “She shows young women that we can do that too and young men that they need to respect that.”

The award-winning actress, singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and humanitarian will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the graduation. 

After receiving her Grammys, Emmys and Golden Globes, Latifah never forgot her Newark roots, the press release said. She started a scholarship foundation for low-income youth and has worked to diminish home foreclosures in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Her humanitarian efforts were recognized when she won the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Community Award in 2013. 

Latifah has been an advocate for “Let Girls Learn,” an initiative created by former First Lady Michelle Obama, that seeks to bring education to the 62 million girls around the world who do not have access to schools. 

"Queen Latifah has been a consistent supporter of Newark and a source of inspiration for creative people and entrepreneurs in our city and throughout the world,” said Lyneir Richardson, executive director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers—Newark, in the press release. “She is an inspiring role model of excellence for Rutgers—Newark. I have seen, up close, her creative spirit, entrepreneurial drive and deep-rooted connection to inclusive urban community revitalization."

Hill is also well respected in the international community as a leading figure in the Time’s Up movement, a sexual assault awareness campaign. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Rutgers—Camden on May 17, at the BB&T Pavilion on the Camden waterfront. 

Hill is currently a professor at Brandeis University, specializing in social policy, law and women’s studies. 

In 1991, Hill testified against then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. She alleged that Thomas made inappropriate sexual advances on her when she worked with him. 

In an interview with New York Daily News, Hill said, “Despite a generation growing up hearing that sexual harassment is unacceptable, it clearly remains a plague.”

The press release stated that her testimony sparked conversations about workplace misconduct and inequality and that she has refused to be silent about sexual harassment for more than a quarter of a century. 

“Her career is a living testament to her commitment to the idea of equity in access in myriad ways, particularly regarding the importance of equal rights for women. She is the ideal role model to charge graduating students to take what they learned at Rutgers—Camden and work to improve their communities and world,” said Phoebe Haddon, Rutgers—Camden chancellor.  

In 2016, Rutgers—New Brunswick spent approximately $1.5 million dollars on former President Barack Obama’s speech, according to NJ Advance Media. This year, school officials said Rutgers—Newark and Rutgers—Camden will not pay a fee and stated that both women were chosen because they are strong female role models.

Erica D'Costa

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