New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) bestowed 1,821 degrees during its May 26 graduation ceremony, held for the first time at the Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford.
NJIT gave an honorary degree to Arthur F. Ryan, chairman and chief executive officer of Prudential Financial, Inc., who delivered the keynote address. Ryan was honored for his outstanding professional achievements in the financial industry and for his commitment to academic excellence and community service.
“Achieving your life dreams does not happen overnight,” said Ryan. “But making it to graduation didn’t happen overnight either. It took hard work, preparation and always having the end goal in mind,” said Ryan. “I don’t know anyone that graduates with a 30-year plan in mind, the point is whatever you pick to do today, stay with it long enough to be the best at it.”
NJIT awarded bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during the three-hour ceremony. Previous to this graduation, NJIT held both a winter and spring commencement; this was the first time NJIT held just one ceremony.
NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch said that with this graduation the university has awarded a total of 59,497 degrees. He called this graduating class one of the largest and finest in the history of the university.
“The diploma that you will shortly receive certifies that you have acquired a great deal of specialized knowledge,” Altenkirch said in his opening address to the students. “However, the true significance of this milestone in your life is not that you possess a wealth of knowledge for its own sake. Rather, it signifies that you should now be far more ready than you were a few years ago to help change the world.”
“It is appropriate,” Altenkirch added, “that you should act with self-interest in pursuing your personal goals. Yet the value of your education must also be in applying what you have learned in the classroom and laboratory to promoting positive change for all, especially through science and technology. In doing so, you will be joining the generations of NJIT alumni who have distinguished themselves through pioneering research and development in many fields, who have contributed to economic progress in the private sector, and who have accepted the challenges and responsibilities of public office.”
Maggie Vallejos, of Carteret, was the ceremony’s undergraduate speaker. Vallejos, 22, who graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering, has joined the Peace Corps and will be stationed in Africa.
Vallejos was known for her commitment to NJIT and to Newark. She was president of her senior class and received the Senior Class Student Leadership Award. She was a member of the NJIT Student Senate. She belonged to the Educational Opportunity Program at NJIT, which helps minorities and women become engineers and technological professionals.
With support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship, Vallejos helped teach science for 18 months to Newark middle-school students.
Nisha Goklaney, who is from Mumbai, India but lives in Newark, was the commencement’s graduate speaker. Goklaney, 22, received a master’s degree in management and graduated with a near-perfect grade-point average of 3.9. She was a vice president of the Graduate Student Association and she received an NJIT Presidential Award for leadership and academic excellence. Goklaney will work as a product management specialist at Factiva, South Brunswick, a company co-owned by Dow Jones and Reuters Group.
Ryan was president and chief operating officer of Chase Manhattan Bank prior to joining Prudential. He was named chairman of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) in Oct. 2003. Ryan is also co-chair of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He sits on the boards of trustees of New York Presbyterian Hospital and of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
He is co-chair of the board of Achieve, Inc., an organization created by U.S. governors and business leaders to drive high academic standards for public schools in the United States, and a board member at the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy. Ryan has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Providence College.
NJIT is one of the nation’s most diverse universities. Black Issues in Higher Education ranks NJIT among the nation’s leading schools for graduating minority students. In 2004, NJIT was named 16th in the U.S. for conferring engineering baccalaureates to African-American students and 11th in the U.S. for conferring them to Hispanic students.
NJIT supports one of the nation’s fastest-growing research programs with doctoral degrees conferred to date upon nearly 700 graduates. Research expenditures exceed $70 million annually, funding has grown 355 percent since 1991 and the American Association of University Professors classifies NJIT as a “Category 1” university. Such institutions offer a significant level and breadth of activity in and commitment to doctoral-level education as measured by the number of doctorates awarded annually and the diversity of doctoral-level degree programs.
Although more than 1,700 NJIT students live in NJIT’s six modern residence halls located a block from the city subway and a mile from Penn Station, almost 7,000 students commute. The university’s commitment to e-learning eases that challenge. A recent U.S. News survey of 152 online programs placed NJIT 7th in the U.S. and second among public universities in eLearning enrollments among online graduate degree programs in the U.S.
The Albert Dorman Honors College at NJIT enrolls more than 500 of the nation’s brightest students, with SATs in the top 10 percent nationally and with math proficiency in the top two percent. The college builds on NJIT’s rigorous curriculum, offering enriched coursework and seminars, as well as real-world projects with outstanding faculty researchers and industry leaders.