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Rutgers approves Steven Van Zandt as 2017 commencement speaker

On Wednesday, the Board of Governor's approved a proposal for Steven Van Zandt to speak at 2017 graduation. Van Zandt is a prominent musician and actor who was among 24 individuals nominated for the ceremony. – Photo by Renegade Nation

NEWARK, N.J.— The Board of Governors approved musician and actor Steven Van Zandt to be the speaker at Rutgers—New Brunswick’s 2017 commencement ceremony. Carla D. Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress, was also approved as Rutgers—Camden’s commencement speaker.

Harvey J. Makadon, director of Education and Training Programs at The Fenway Institute, will also receive an honorary Doctor of Science for his work in increasing healthcare accessibility for the LGBT+ community.

Van Zandt is one of the founders of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and used to play Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, the fictional HBO show about New Jersey crime families. According to his website, he has written music for both movies and other musical artists.

The musician popularly known as “Little Steven” writes, produces and performs music, and is also listed as a writer and human rights activist on his website. Several of his performances and speeches have been at charity concerts or philanthropic events.

He will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts during the commencement ceremony on May 14.

Hayden is the first female African-American librarian of Congress, and will also receive an honorary degree during the school’s commencement on May 17.

Last month, Rutgers students launched a video campaign to encourage the University to invite comedian Ellen DeGeneres to be this year’s speaker.

However, an article by NJ Advance Media found that students had forgotten to nominate DeGeneres when the University was looking for submissions in 2016. The publication noted that DeGeneres can still be nominated to be the commencement speaker in 2018.

There were 24 names submitted for consideration, University spokesperson Karen Smith told NJ Advance Media.

The full list of nominations will not be made public.

University President Robert L. Barchi told The Daily Targum that a commencement speaker had already been chosen in December 2016, though he had to be approved before his name could be released.

Due to how late in the year a speaker for the 2016 ceremony was proposed, the University Senate created a new system for choosing commencement speakers, which will be used going forward, he said.

In 2016, journalist Bill Moyers was initially announced as the commencement speaker, before 44th President of the United States Barack Obama accepted a long standing invitation from Rutgers to be last year’s speaker.

Moyers instead addressed the School of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony.

Nikhilesh De is a correspondent with The Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.

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