University Operating Status

An ongoing series celebrating the university's people and innovations that have changed lives around the world

Jim Dale

Dale v. Boy Scouts of America: The Rutgers Alumnus Who Sued For Discrimination

While a Rutgers University student in 1990, Dale was ousted from membership in the Boy Scouts of America because he was gay. Dale sued the Boy Scouts in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and helped change public opinion about discrimination by the century-old organization.  

Bill Rasmussen: Rutgers Alumnus Founded ESPN, Created First 24-Hour TV Network

Without Rasmussen’s fanaticism for sports and his entrepreneurial spirit, the world might not have SportsCenter or wall-to-wall coverage of March Madness and the College World Series. He changed how the world watches television when he founded ESPN, which became the world’s first network to broadcast around the clock when it went live on September 7, 1979.

George McLaughlin: The Rutgers Alumnus Who Fought for Civil Rights Through Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-ins

McLaughlin, who retired in May from the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine as a clinical associate professor, was among a small but growing wave of students who turned out to support the “Greensboro Four” – and kept showing up for months.

Michael Gottlieb: The Rutgers Alumnus Who First Identified the Deadly Disease We Now Call AIDS

In the fall of 1980, a 33-year-old immunologist named Michael Gottlieb began hearing about young homosexual men in the Los Angeles area who, inexplicably, were extremely ill. The men had a rare form of pneumonia which only strikes patients with severely weakened immune systems. Gottlieb led a team that wrote up the troubling findings -- the world’s first documentation of AIDS.   

Katherine Lau: Rutgers Student Led a Team that Built a Prosthesis for Little Girl’s Hand

Rutgers biomedical engineering student Katherine Lau was looking for a research project when she went home to Las Vegas during the summer. A UNLV professor selected her to head up a team of three students to fashion a custom-fitted prosthetic hand using 3D printing.

Oscar Auerbach: A Professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Who Proved the Case Against Tobacco Use

In the 1950s and ‘60s, while there was mounting evidence that cigarettes directly cause lung cancer, there was just enough scientific doubt that the United States government felt unable to take action. Oscar Auerbach put that doubt to rest forever.

Constantine Sarkos: Leading the FAA’s Effort to Reduce Airliner Fire Hazards

Sarkos, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Fire Safety Branch, heads up a research and development team of engineers, chemists, technical experts and computer scientists at the William J. Hughes Technical Center, the most extensive aviation fire safety research facility in the world.

Julia Baxter Bates: Proving the Scientific Case for Public School Desegregation

Bates was admitted to the New Jersey College for Women, which has evolved into Douglass Residential College at Rutgers, only due to a clerical error and denied teaching positions because of the color of her skin. She went on to co-author the winning brief for Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which the NAACP used to prove the scientific case against public school segregation. 

Christian Lambertsen: The Rutgers Alumnus Who Was a Father of SCUBA Diving

Human beings do not have gills, but swimming underwater as if we did has long been a basic urge. With his “amphibious respirator unit,” a prototype for what the world now calls SCUBA gear, Christian Lambertsen, Rutgers Class of 1939, made diving feasible for millions of people.

Joachim Messing: Feeding the World

Messing, director of the Rutgers Waksman Institute of Microbiology, has become famous for a genetic engineering technique used in laboratories to create plants that have produced disease-resistant crops considered crucial to feeding the world’s population.

Mary I. Bunting: Rutgers Dean Led the Fight for Coeducation at Our Nation’s Most Prestigious Universities

When Bunting began her academic career in 1937, women had limited opportunities in higher education. By the time she retired five decades later, many of the nation's elite universities had gone coeducational, due largely to her advocacy.

Paul Robeson: Rutgers Scholar, Athlete Became a Renowned International Entertainer

Robeson was one of the most revered figures of his time. A 1919 Rutgers graduate and distinguished student – he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Cap & Skull – he made marked contributions in the artistic, scholarly, athletic and political worlds.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Former Rutgers Law Professor Led the Legal Campaign for Gender Equality

In the late 1960s, a group of Rutgers Law School students asked for a seminar on women and the law. Ginsburg, now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was one of only two female law professors at Rutgers and a handful in the country and seemed the right person to teach the class. In preparing for the seminar, Ginsburg quickly learned there was a large gap in the law on gender equality. 

Donald Roden: The Professor Who Founded a Prison-to-College Program that Provides a Second Chance

Roden has dedicated the past decade demonstrating that people behind bars deserve second chances and that educating them pays off. Since the Mountainview Project's inception, 25 former inmates have earned bachelor’s degrees, five have received master’s degrees and two have been named Truman Scholars.

Amanda O'Keefe: Rutgers Law Student's Project Untangles Web of Services for Developmentally Disabled

Inspired by her family’s struggle to find programs for her developmentally disabled sister, O’Keefe launched Learn Empower and Advocate for the Developmentally Disabled (LEAD) during her first year at Rutgers Law School in Camden. The pro bono project tracks down and shares information about services available for families like hers.

Selman Waksman: Rutgers Alumnus, Researcher and Nobel Prize Winner Developed System to Discover Antibiotics

Waksman’s work in what was then the Rutgers College of Agriculture led to the first effective treatment for tuberculosis. The Waksman Institute of Microbiology was created from royalties received from his work and his original laboratory is a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

Thomas Nosker: Recycled Plastic Lumber Invented by Pioneering Rutgers Professor

Imagine a material lighter than steel, longer-lasting than lumber and strong enough to support 120-ton locomotives. It’s called structural plastic lumber, and it was invented by Nosker, an assistant research professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Simeon DeWitt

Letters from the Revolutionary War

Young Simeon De Witt witnessed some of our nation’s greatest – and most dangerous – early moments when he joined the Continental Army in 1776 after graduating from Queen's College, the small private school in Central New Jersey that would eventually transform itself into Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.