MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT: Experiencing major in-person firsts as I completed my second year

Rutgers President Holloway applauding graduates during 2022 Commencement
Jonathan Holloway is the president of Rutgers.
Photography by Nick Romanenko

It’s hard to believe, but as I completed my second full year as president, I was still experiencing some pretty major in-person firsts—including my first Rutgers Day, my first basketball games inside a packed Jersey Mike’s Arena, my first Dance Marathon, my first year-end Faculty Awards reception, my first Matthew Leydt Society celebration, and my first May commencement ceremonies. 

Every single one of them was fantastic.

They were indelible and exhilarating because they showed me the best of our community. Students excelling in athletic competition, working together in support of a worthy cause, and being celebrated for their academic achievements. Faculty, staff, and students at Rutgers Day demonstrating how amazing this place is—academically, culturally, and socially. And, oh, the pomp of commencement—with the scarlet and black regalia of our thousands of graduates, the playing of the alma mater, the carrying of gonfalons, the university mace, the honorary degree hooding.

It has been a great honor, and a special joy, to witness some of Rutgers’ finest traditions. There are still more I have yet to experience, and I look forward to those in the years ahead. These events are so often packed with meaning—I think of the multicolor pins designed for Rutgers University–Camden’s inaugural Rites of Passage ceremony as a recent example—and they also tie the generations of Rutgers students together.

I’m eager to launch some new traditions during my time here as well, especially in ways that recognize the mighty accomplishments of our students. Consider what they’ve achieved, even while navigating the challenges of an ongoing pandemic: winning Big Ten titles, earning prestigious fellowships and scholarships, and forming the first cohort of public service-focused Rutgers Summer Service Internship participants, to name a few. In that sense, they very much have continued a tradition of excellence that connects our student body to the more than half-million living alumni who preceded them across the decades.

No tradition is more steeped in meaning than graduation, so let me share with you the closing lines of a speech that I heard about at my own college graduation and quoted to the Class of 2022 during ceremonies in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden in May. I did so in the midst of exhorting the graduates to engage in democracy personally, making the most of the critical thinking skills and values they developed as Rutgers students. The words came from politician Adlai Stevenson in an address to the senior class at Princeton University in 1954 titled “The Educated Citizen.”

He said, “Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with good, old friends. And don’t forget when you leave why you came.”

Congratulations to our newest graduates, and to our alumni: I hope that in reminiscing about a favorite Rutgers tradition, or in sharing a text with good, old friends, or in simply reflecting on your own personal experience, you will always remember why you came.