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Rutgers Board of Governors announces 2021 commencement speakers

Natasha Trethewey, an award-winning author and former U.S. Poet Laureate, was named as the 2021 commencement speaker for Rutgers—New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences. – Photo by Courtesy of Carissa Sestito

The Rutgers Board of Governors announced their choices for 2021 commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients as well as passed multiple resolutions at their most recent meeting today. 

The Board stated that Natasha Trethewey, an award-winning author and former U.S. Poet Laureate, will address students at the Rutgers—New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences commencement on May 16, according to a press release. 

“I am honored to have been invited to address the Rutgers University graduating class. In times of uncertainty, our academic rituals and traditions stand to remind us of our history while linking us to the future,” she said, according to the release. “I look forward to sharing this moment with the Class of 2021.”

Additionally, Rush D. Holt Jr., scientist and politician, will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, will be awarded an honorary doctor of science degree and G. Willow Wilson, comics writer, essayist and journalist, will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree.

For Rutgers—Newark’s commencement, also on May 16, the Board voted for Wendell Pierce, actor, author, radio personality and humanitarian, to address the graduates, according to the release. Robert Parris Moses, MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner and civil rights figure, will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, and Angela Martinez, radio personality and May 2020 commencement speaker, will be awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Rutgers—Camden will award honorary degrees to Judith Persichilli, New Jersey Department of Health commissioner, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, architect and lead author of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, at an in-person commencement in the future, according to the release.

In addition to the announcement of these speakers and honorary degree recipients, the Board passed several resolutions at their meeting.

One resolution included the approval of contract renewal terms for C. Vivian Stringer, head coach of the women’s basketball team, whose contract was originally set to expire on June 30. The contract will lay out a combined $1 million salary in fiscal year 2022 that will gradually increase to $1.25 million in fiscal year 2026.

Stringer's contract terms also include a provision for bonuses based on the team's cumulative GPA as well as the multi-year Academic Progress Rate determined by the NCAA, along with performance bonus incentives.

The terms promise a salary pool of at least $510,500 for Stringer to hire assistant coaches with the potential for bonuses or an increased pool.

Another resolution dealt with authorizing the negotiation and creation of an easement agreement between Middlesex County and New Brunswick in regards to State Theater New Jersey and an adjacent Rutgers property, the Civic Square Building, that share a publicly used sidewalk.

Other resolutions passed included the approval to appoint KPMG as the University’s external auditors to provide services for the fiscal year ending June 30, as well as the approval to adopt a new policy, University Policy 40.2.24: Leasing of Real Estate, that will formalize current guidance regarding leasing or use of space.

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