Rutgers juniors: Apply for Cap and Skull Class of 2016

"Get involved” is one of the most universal pieces of advice a first-year student hears upon arriving on the banks of the old Raritan. Encouraged by peer mentors, academic advisers, and so on, students are called to “get involved” and invest their time and efforts into something, anything, along with the pursuit of a degree. Many of our peers strive for excellence in service and leadership not merely for the rewards of recognition, but also to challenge themselves and to contribute to a community or cause in which they passionately believe.

Ten dedicated undergraduate students from the Class of 1900 understood the importance that academic excellence, leadership, character, and loyalty played in creating a vibrant Rutgers community. One hundred and fifteen years ago, on January 18, 1900, they created The Cap & Skull Society to honor these attributes.

 Today, as Rutgers approaches its 250th anniversary, our university has not only maintained century old traditions like Cap & Skull, but has also contributed modern, unprecedented initiatives to exemplify its “Jersey roots” and “global reach”. We are the eighth oldest college in the country and we predate the United States. We are the birthplace of college football. Our Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies, originally Puerto Rican Studies, is one of the nation’s oldest academic departments of its kind. Our very own Selman Waksman, the namesake of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, alumnus of Rutgers College, and Cap & Skull Class of 1915, coined the term antibiotics. We are the first and only campus to contribute to the national discussion on eradicating sexual assault at institutions of higher education through the iSpeak survey. Perhaps the University’s inclination to “get involved” and serve our communities, local and beyond, is a Rutgers tradition itself.

 Our institutional traditions, like Cap & Skull, distinguish Rutgers from contemporary and competing universities. During their undergraduate careers, Cap & Skull members were athletes, founders of student organizations and initiatives, Greek leaders, political figures, civic advocates, and scholars. They continued on in life to do worthy things as well.

 Paul Robeson, Class of 1919 and Rutgers legend, was the third African American to attend Rutgers College. He earned 15 letters in four varsity sports, including football. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and he was elected class valedictorian. Robeson earned a law degree from Columbia University, performed lead roles on stage and on film, and advocated for Civil Rights. His songs “Ol’ Man River” and “No More Auction Block for Me” are still played and studied today. Charles Molnar, Class of 1956, invented the personal computer. Robert “Nasty” Nash, Class of 1916, was the first football player traded in the NFL and was the first captain of the New York Giants. Richard M. Hale, Class of 1944 was the founder and chairman of Halecrest and is the namesake of the Hale Center Football Complex on Busch Campus. Anne Milgram, Class of 1992, graduated with degrees in English and Political Science. She was Attorney General of New Jersey from 2007 to 2010. Randal Pinkett, Class of 1993, has established himself as a leading entrepreneur, speaker, author, scholar and community servant. These individuals not only thrived at our university and beyond in their own experiences, they also shared a common pride in Rutgers.

 The Cap & Skull Honor Society is a Senior Class Society, the only surviving class organization of its kind at Rutgers. Our mission still is to honor and encourage the campus wide pursuit of excellence in student leadership, while also now offering our eighteen undergraduate members a seat at a unique roundtable of diverse peer leaders and skilled, interested advisers. Cap & Skull graduates class after class of dedicated alumni united in their affinity for alma mater and mutually pledged to her lifelong support. Like all who have come before, alumni Skulls are expected to exemplify the best traits and character of leaders in their communities and chosen pursuits and to never relent in their support of dear old Rutgers, far and wide.

 We salute our fellow students who choose every day to “Get involved” and invite you to learn more about our university’s oldest and only Senior honor society, as well as, other longstanding Rutgers traditions, at The application for membership for our Class of 2016 is currently open and will remain open until January 16, 2015 at 11:59pm. Of the 32,280 undergraduates who attend Rutgers University – New Brunswick, only eighteen will be tapped for membership each year. If you are a third-year undergraduate student, who strives to promote the ideals of Rutgers then we invite you to apply for membership in Cap & Skull – The Senior Honor Society at Rutgers University.

Camille Ungco is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in English. She is a member of the Cap & Skull Class of 2015.

Editor's note: A previous version of this commentary's headline implied that only School of Arts and Sciences junior can apply for Cap & Skull membership. All juniors enrolled in Rutgers University can apply for membership.

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