Education

Steven Van Zandt Encourages Rutgers Class of 2017 to Reach for Nothing Less than Greatness

73b10d5c48d797b2e50a_VanZandtNR450.jpg
Steven Van Zandt received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree during commencement for Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. Credits: Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University
2d2d4d5a94fc0a3ea4b1_RUStudents2017.jpg
A crowd of about 45,000 attended Rutgers 251st anniversary commencement. Credits: Roy Groething/Rutgers Today
73b10d5c48d797b2e50a_VanZandtNR450.jpg

PISCATAWAY, NJ - Steven Van Zandt, musician, actor and political activist, encouraged the Class of 2017 to strive for greatness and a better future for all as he shared the story of his career highs and lows during Rutgers’ 251st Anniversary commencement.

“Greatness isn’t born, it’s developed,’’ Van Zandt told a crowd of about 45,000 at High Point Solutions Stadium during a ceremony for students graduating from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “Greatness is a decision that you make, and you make that decision every single day in everything you do, no matter how small.’’

Van Zandt spoke about his days rehearsing in garage as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band before the group earned worldwide fame, his political awakening and work to fight South Africa’s apartheid. But he also spoke about the price he paid for his activism, which made it hard to get work for several years before he landed a role on the HBO hit The Sopranos.

Sign Up for E-News

The legendary New Jersey rock star and performer also spoke about the importance of art and protecting the environment while sharing his pride in his Jersey roots, a message that resonated with members of the graduating class.

“Can you imagine the faces [at the record company] when Bruce went to discuss the cover of his first album and handed them a postcard that said ‘Greetings from Asbury Park?’’’ said Van Zandt, who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree during the ceremony. “Embrace your Jersey roots. That authenticity. Jersey strong. It doesn't matter where you are from, you are in the Jersey family now.’’

It was a message that endeared him to members of the graduating class.

“I thought Steven Van Zandt was great,’’ said Julie Petulla, a finance major at Rutgers Business School- Newark and New Brunswick who will be starting a new job at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in New York City in July. “He’s gained a fan. I love what he said about embracing your Jersey roots and using it to go forward. It’s great advice.’’

Van Zandt ended his speech with a list of advice to encourage students to make the best of their future, whatever it brings. A few bits of Van Zandt wisdom: Keep your standards high. Do your homework before you open your mouth. Finish what you start.

“When your ship comes in you will probably be at the airport,’’ Van Zandt said. “… You can make all the plans you want, but keep yourself open for unexpected opportunities because that is where most of life comes from.’’

He also touched on issues of climate change and pollution and told students the future is green.

“Reach for greatness, nothing less, and make sure you have some fun along the way,’’ Van Zandt concluded. “Life should never be boring.’’

A crowd of about 45,000 attended Rutgers 251st anniversary commencement.

An estimated 17,729 graduates will receive degrees from Rutgers this year, the largest class ever. They include approximately 11,423 baccalaureate degrees, 4,555 master’s degrees, 1,750 doctorates (including professional doctorates), one specialist of education degree and two artist diplomas. Since its founding in 1766, Rutgers has awarded 568,128 academic degrees (excluding the 2017 estimated total).

President Robert Barchi spoke to the graduating class Sunday about the value of diversity at Rutgers, a theme president Obama highlighted during his address last year for Rutgers’ historic 250th commencement.

“You know that diversity is not simply demographic facts,’’ Barchi said. “This diversity has made you stronger. You know what it means to come from very different backgrounds, and to hold different points of view, and yet to recognize in each other the dignity that each and every individual in the community deserves.’’

Barchi, who will participate in ceremonies this week at Rutgers University-Newark and Rutgers University-Camden, received applause when he told graduates, “In many cases you are living examples to the importance of immigration to the future of our society.’’

The president also presented an honorary Doctor of Science to Harvey J. Makadon, a LGBTQ and HIV health care advocate and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Barchi’s comments included a mention of a group of about 55 graduates who are walking with special distinction at ceremonies this week as the first Rutgers Future Scholars to earn university degrees.

Rutgers Future Scholars is a pioneering mentoring program for first generation and low-income students in Newark, New Brunswick, Camden and Rahway that rewards those who get accepted into Rutgers with free tuition.  

“Being the first class of Futures Scholars has been a lot of pressure but good pressure because of the trust, expectations and honor bestowed on us,’’ said Jason Gaines Jr., of New Brunswick, who studied communication and human resource management. “I can’t imagine my life without the program.’’

Yauris Hernandez, an economics major and entrepreneurship minor, was thinking about her father before commencement on Sunday. He had to drop out of high school in the Dominican Republican because he couldn’t afford the uniform that was required. Now she is graduating from college and thinking of pursuing a doctoral degree.

“A Ph.D. was completely unheard of in my family,’’ said Hernandez, of New Brunswick. “Being part of the first class of Future Scholars made me want to reach higher and want more for myself. We are the role models because other people are going to be walking in our shoes.’’

For some graduates, Sunday marked a bittersweet moment for those sad to leave the school they called home for the last four years, although they are excited for the next chapter of their lives.

“It’s been the best four years ever,’’ said Chris Sylvia, from Ocean Township who is graduating with a degree in criminal Justice. “It’s awesome I get to start the next chapter, but, on the other hand, no part of me wants to leave college. Between the fun I had and the friends I made, every turn I’ve taken I’ve had a great time at Rutgers.’’

Sylvia, who worked as a community service officer for the Rutgers University Police Department, plans to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard in the fall.

“I am excited to be done, but there are things I will miss,’’ said Gabrielle Musso, who is graduating with a degree in psychology from the School of Arts and Sciences. “I will miss my friends the most, and I will miss living on campus and enjoying student life by just walking out the door.’’

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

The Athlete of the Week Alejandro Garcia Boys’ Spring Track

The South Plainfield Boys’ Spring Track has continued to be one of the most successful programs for the Spring Athletic Season.  The Boys’ have been dominate in the Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division for the last few years.  After being decimated by graduation, the Tigers were not sure what the season would hold.  South Plainfield once again won the Blue ...

The Athlete of the Week Christopher Shine Baseball

The South Plainfield High School baseball team is continuing to have a successful 2018 season with a record of 15-9. This past week, the Tigers went 4-0 beating out of conference foes North Hunterdon, Montgomery, and Bernards.  They finished the week with a win in the first round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, over Carteret.   A major contributor to South ...

Holy Savior Cheerleading Squad Takes Season by 'Storm'

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy’s (HSA) ‘Biddy’ Cheerleading Squad, the Storm,  recently completed their 2017-2018 season with a first place win in their division at Cheerfest. Held May 12 at Six Flags Great Adventure, the annual multi-state competition featured teams from throughout New Jersey. 

“This cheer season has been such an ...

Obituaries

South Plainfield – Dorothy Rotola, 91, passed away Thursday, May 24, 2018 in Ashbrook Nursing ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Tree Olano Says "Thank You"

May 23, 2018

The infamous “Senior Gardens” is a huge part of the senior center .  The vegetables are all planted and ready for a fruitful harvest!

I wanted to extend a “thank you” the following people who made this happen:

The  Department of Public Works – Kristina Nieradka for taking my many calls with kindness and professionalism; Donna Zereconski, ...

Middlesex County College Graduates 1480 Students May 17

May 22, 2018

EDISON, NJ - A total of 1514 degrees and certificates were awarded to 1480 students by Middlesex County College Thursday, May 17 at the 51st annual Commencement exercises witnessed by approximately 3500 guests at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Valedictorian Sindhu Murthy (Highland Park) delivered the class welcome, sharing her experiences and aspirations. Ms. Murthy, who graduated in January and ...

Community Happenings

JOHN E. RILEY’S 1ST ANNUAL FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL

May 12, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - On Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 11AM to 5PM, the John E. Riley PTSO (JER PTSO) will be hosting its first ever Food Truck Festival!

 

Come out for a good time while supporting a good cause! Proceeds from this event will go to replacing the 2 broken playground structures at John E. Riley Elementary School costing approximately $80,000. 11+ food trucks including ...

Holy Savior Academy to Hold 7th Annual 5K Run & Family Walk in June

May 26, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Calling all runners and walkers! Holy Savior Academy will hold its 7th Annual 5K Run and 1 Mile Family Walk on Saturday, June 2. Proceeds from this year’s family-friendly event will benefit the school’s academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs.

“Holy Savior Academy’s annual 5K offers the school an opportunity to provide other ...

Holy Savior Cheerleading Squad Takes Season by 'Storm'

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy’s (HSA) ‘Biddy’ Cheerleading Squad, the Storm,  recently completed their 2017-2018 season with a first place win in their division at Cheerfest. Held May 12 at Six Flags Great Adventure, the annual multi-state competition featured teams from throughout New Jersey. 

“This cheer season has been such an ...

Memorial Day Services ­Announced

May 22, 2018

The South Plainfield Memorial Day Services, hosted by the American Legion Post #243  and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post #6763  will be held on Monday, May 28.  It will commence at the American Legion Post 243 at 9:00 a.m.  The procession will start with the tradition of wreath laying  at 10 a.m. in Monument Park.( Attendees may park in Veterans Memorial ...

Road Projects - Closures

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -  Road resurfacing continues on Joan Street between South Plainfield Avenue and Maple Avenue plus Michael Street.  Roadways are closed to local traffic only.  This information was sent via Nixle Alert.

Staying Fit at the Senior Center

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Staying fit and getting plenty of good exercise is a high priority at the South Plainfield Senior Center, located at 90 Maple Avenue in South Plainfield. Classes on health issues and a wide range of physical exercise are available almost daily.

The Walking Group meets every Friday, weather permitting, starting on May 18 and going through October. Participants meet at the ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_7a110ba1b1a66408e129_mini_magick20180522-67475-1v887d3

Mon, May 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

Memorial Day Services ­Announced

Wed, May 30, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield Public Library, South Plainfield

Town-Wide Girl Scout Registration

Sat, June 2, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

Holy Savior Academy 5K and Family Fun Walk

Health & Wellness

Columns

Diegnan & Ruiz Bill to Establish Grant Program to Develop Dual Language Immersion Programs Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz to establish a grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs was released from the Senate Education Committee today.

 

“The best way for a student to excel in a foreign language is an immersion program,” said ...

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady.

Bookmarks

The South Plainfield Public Library will be closed this Sunday, May 27 and Monday, May 28 due to Memorial Day.  Because of the holiday, there will be no movie showing this week on Monday evening or Wednesday afternoon.  Monday Night Movies will resume the week of June 4, with a newly released selection.

This Saturday, May 26, the library is hosting a Mario Kart Tournament: Blindfold ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.

 

Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Welcomes You

The Suburban Woman’s Club of South Plainfield is welcoming new members. Enjoy creative fund raisers, interesting activities while participating on standing committees, informative monthly programs, and the camaraderie of women whose efforts enhance the community. The club meets at 1:00 PM on the first Thursday of each month, September through June, at the American ...

Press Releases

South Plainfield’s Gillen Named Third Team All-American

May 26, 2018

GLENSIDE, Pa – Junior Bryan Gillen was named Third Team All-America by D3baseball.com, becoming the first All-America recipient in program history, the organization announced Wednesday. To be eligible, a player must have made the D3baseball.com All-Region Team, which Gillen earned First Team honors.
 
Gillen, who was named MAC Commonwealth Player of the Year and earned ...