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Steven Van Zandt, Springsteen Sidekick, Named Rutgers Commencement Speaker

Little Steven Van Zandt will be the commencement speaker at Rutgers University May 14, Credits: Renegade Productions

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Rutgers Board of Governors has chosen Steven Van Zandt, musician, actor, human rights activist and radio host as the 251st anniversary commencement speaker for Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Van Zandt will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at the May 14 ceremony at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway.

Van Zandt (“Little Steven”) is perhaps best known as an influential member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and for his portrayal of Silvio Dante in HBO’s The Sopranos.

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Van Zandt grew up in the same New Jersey shore scene as Springsteen and Southside Johnny Lyon, with whom he helped form the Asbury Jukes in 1974. Van Zandt was a member of Springsteen’s early bands, joining the E Street Band in 1975.

He worked closely with Springsteen, co-producing The River and Born in the U.S.A., while also producing and writing material for Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds. In 1982, he branched out as Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul. Although he officially left the E Street Band in 1984, he rejoined it in 1999 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an E Street Band member in 2014.

In 1999, having no previous professional acting experience, Van Zandt was tapped for the role of Silvio Dante in HBO’s The Sopranos, which he played for all seven seasons of the hit series. In February 2012, Van Zandt co-wrote, was executive producer and starred in Netflix’s first original series, Lilyhammer.

In 2002, Van Zandt created the internationally syndicated radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage. He is creator and executive producer of The Underground Garage and Outlaw Country on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

Van Zandt has used his worldwide presence to address domestic and international causes. In 1985, he established Artists United Against Apartheid and enlisted other musicians – including Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Run-D.M.C., Miles Davis, Bono and Springsteen – to record the album Sun City, which protested South Africa’s policy of racial segregation.

That same year, he established the Solidarity Foundation to promote the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. Lamenting the trend of funding cuts for arts education in local schools, Van Zandt established the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation to provide no-cost lesson plans and educational materials to middle- and high-school teachers through its curriculum initiative,

Van Zandt was chosen to speak at Rutgers as part of a yearlong selection process that involved students, faculty and staff.

Harvey J. Makadon  – physician, educator, and advocate – has devoted his career to providing and promoting care for the poor, the homeless, patients living with HIV, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. As director of education and training programs at the Fenway Institute and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, he continues to teach health care providers across the nation how to better serve the LGBTQ and HIV communities and improve access to quality care. Rutgers is honored to bestow upon Makadon an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Makadon earned a B.A. from Cornell University in 1969 and after briefly considering law school took a job advocating for Medicaid reform. The work inspired him to pursue a career in medicine. More specifically, he aspired to be a primary care physician and improve the quality of care and access to care for poor people.



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Basking Ridge

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