Camden – Two nationally recognized leaders in civic justice and equality received honorary degrees from Rutgers University–Camden during a Convocation and Graduate Commencement ceremony held at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden.

Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, while musician/philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi, chair of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree.  Both awards were presented by Phoebe A. Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden, before an audience of more than 3,000 that included 293 students receiving their master’s and doctoral degrees at that specific event.  Overall, Rutgers University–Camden awarded 1,749 degrees at five separate ceremonies throughout the day.

During the event, Bon Jovi debuted and performed a new song, “Reunion,” that he wrote specifically for the Class of 2015 at Rutgers University–Camden.  In his comments, Bon Jovi advised the new Rutgers–Camden graduates:  “Life is a long, bumpy road, but that makes for an exciting ride. Choose a direction and if the road turns – turn!  If there is a fork in the road – take it!  It’s OK to map out your future… but do it in pencil.” 

Read the text of Jon Bon Jovi’s speech here.

“I'm proud to be a part of commencement at Rutgers–Camden given the University's emphasis on civic engagement and social justice. Students are encouraged to get proximate to problems and issues in our community which enhances their education in critically important ways,” says Stevenson.

“These are two extraordinary honorees whose careers uplift the lives of everyone they touch,” says Haddon.  “Both give voice and hope to underserved citizens and communities, and their leadership is an inspiration to everyone committed to equal justice in all areas of society and life.  As an institution selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to receive its Community Engagement Classification, Rutgers University–Camden is committed to developing the next generation of civic leaders, and Prof. Stevenson and Mr. Bon Jovi are outstanding role models for that goal.”

A national leader in the fight to ensure that every American has the right to fair and equal treatment under the law, Stevenson leads the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala. A professor of clinical law at New York University, he is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. He is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which was named by Time magazine as one of the 10 best books of nonfiction for 2014.

Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need. Musically, the Grammy Award-winning rock band Bon Jovi has set the bar for over three decades as one of the most successful rock bands in the world. Globally, they have sold more than 130 million albums and performed more than 2,900 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 37.5 million fans. Most recently, Bon Jovi’s 14th album, “What About Now,” debuted at No. 1 around the world while the accompanying world tour became the No. 1 tour.

About Rutgers University-Camden: 

As the southernmost campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rutgers University-Camden enrolls 6,535 students in 39 undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including five doctoral programs and South Jersey’s only law school. The institution is recognized nationally for its innovative civic engagement program, which has earned the prestigious Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The faculty are respected internationally for their significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge across many disciplines and consistently command funding from such top federal agencies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and more. During the past four years, two Rutgers-Camden faculty members were named MacArthur Fellows, the highly coveted “Genius Grant” honor. Located in the heart of the University District at the Camden Waterfront, Rutgers University–Camden is known for its personalized and supportive approach to helping students achieve their goals.