Rowan graduates biggest class ever
The day started overcast and gray but the haze seemed to wither before several thousand beaming faces.
On May 14 Rowan graduated 2,477 students and the atmosphere on University Green, despite the early cloud cover, could hardly be more festive.
"We're excited for the future!" proclaimed Student Government President and new graduate Elizabeth Palmer.
Palmer noted challenges facing herself and fellow graduates - from the fragile U.S. economy to environmental disasters - but said the Rowan University Class of 2010 is ready to meet them.
"We may not be to blame (for these problems) but we will be responsible for the solutions," said Palmer, a political science major. "We may not be able to right all the wrongs... but there is something we can do every single day."
Addressing the graduates, their families, friends and faculty, Rowan President Donald J. Farish also recognized the challenging economic climate but said the education students earned here is sure to take them far.
"Engineering companies, school districts, businesses and public relations firms - they all hire Rowan graduates," Dr. Farish said.
Several speakers noted just how much the University has changed since members of the Class of 2010 were freshmen - from the on-going construction of Rowan Boulevard, a privately-funded $300 million housing, entertainment and business corridor near the Glassboro campus - to the development of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey's first new medical school in 30 years.
In addition to new graduates, the ceremony honored previous classes including members present from the Class of 1960, the Class of 1950, the Class of 1940 and even a member of the Class of 1930 celebrating the 80th anniversary of her graduation.
Dr. Marque Allen, '91, was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Allen, a world-renowned podiatric surgeon, pledged $100,000 in the past year to create a scholarship fund for the new medical school.
Dr. Farish noted that success begets success, and how benefactors are noticing it too. In particular he mentioned attorney Thomas N. Bantivoglio, the benefactor for Rowan's honors program, who called just a day earlier to pledge an additional $250,000 to support the University.
"I can't wait to get back to my office to see who else has called," he joked.
President Farish told the graduates he expects great things of them, as well.
"You have my admiration and respect," he said. "I know you won't let us down."
Commencement Address by EPA Chief
Delivering the Commencement Address, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, the nation's top environmental officer and a member of President Obama's cabinet, said she was honored to be invited, especially in light of Rowan's strong commitment to the environment.
Just last month, the EPA named Rowan the 2009-2010 EPA Green Power Challenge conference champion for purchasing more green energy than any other institution in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
"That is just one of many environmental honors Rowan has received," Jackson said.
Rowan buys 35% of its energy - 14.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity - from green sources and the Princeton Review named the university to its "Guide to 286 Green Colleges" for 2010-2011 - an acknowledgment of the institution's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
Jackson, a New Orleans native, had been New Jersey's top environmental officer before President Obama tapped her to be EPA chief.
She reminded students about the BP oil spill disaster still unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico but said even amidst the crisis there are lessons to be learned.
The spill, which began on a BP-operated rig following an explosion April 20, also triggered offers from shrimpers and fishermen who, for generations, have earned their livelihoods on those waters.
"Their very first reaction was ‘how can I help,' " Jackson said.
The lesson, she said, is by helping others we can help ourselves.
"Even in these difficult times a new world is opening up to you," Jackson said. "I advise graduates to start by asking ‘how can I help?' "