PISCATAWAY, NJ – More than 12,000 graduates from twenty academic units filled the field at High Points Solutions Stadium on Sunday to not only participate in the 2016 commencement ceremony, but to witness U.S. President Barack Obama deliver remarks in honor of Rutgers University’s 250th Anniversary, marking the first time for a sitting president to give such an address at the country’s eighth oldest institute of high education.
President Robert Barchi welcomed the graduates acknowledging some for being the first to graduate with a degree in their family. He also listed some of the firsts made by this class in academics, sports, and charity fundraising.
"Don't forget your unique place being a part of the 250th class,” said Barchi. He was confident the graduates were given the confidence to ask the right questions as they move through life and challenged them “to make a difference with their lives.”
Tom Frusciano, the University Archivist described to TAPinto Piscataway the beginnings of the three year campaign to get President Obama to commit to speaking to a graduation class. One conversation centered on adding “wish-list” type events, programs, and projects to the usual types of commemorative activities to be scheduled during the anniversary year. “I have to give credit to Matt Weismantel, the senior director of the 250th celebration for the idea of trying to get the president to come to Rutgers,” he said.
Frusciano added, “The idea was then formulated into a letter from Rutgers’ President, Robert Barchi and hand delivered to Obama in Washington, D.C.”
Over the next three years, Rutgers’ students, faculty, staff and alumni and other supporters worked to convince the sitting president to be the commencement speaker during the college’s anniversary year.
The campaign was successful.
Michael Ganoot, a Rutgers-Camden Law Graduate and a resident of Hawaii’s Oahu Island was the only Hawaiian graduate in the Class of 2016 and was proud to hear the President’s speech during the historic occasion.
“The president, being from Hawaii in general is fantastic,” said Ganoot who plans to study for the Hawaii law exam when he returns home. “He is the first one who actually represents our state. To be here at the Rutgers’ graduation is also great because it’s the 250th anniversary. It’s great to see him supporting the community, here to give a special touch to the commencement. “
Zack Fischer graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and sings baritone with the Rutgers Glee Club.
TAPinto Piscataway asked him how he felt about having the opportunity to sing before the president. “I was so excited,” said the singer who has a goal of earning his PhD degree. “It was surreal; it was like a dream.”