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NJ Mayor to deliver main address at commencement

Published: April 28, 2009
Section: Front Page


Mayor of Newark, NJ Cory Booker will deliver the main address at Brandeis University’s 58th commencement ceremony May 17, university officials announced Monday in a press release. Booker and six others will receive honorary degrees from the university at the ceremony.

In the release, Executive Director of Media and Public Affairs Dennis Nealon said the university is “extremely excited about this year’s commencement and the disparate and esteemed group of honorees who will be joining the graduates to help them and their families celebrate the students’ remarkable achievements at Brandeis. We look forward to a thought-provoking, memorable address by Mayor Booker.”

Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker is used to taking on big challenges. In 2006, Booker was elected mayor of the state’s largest city, which only two other men had led since 1970. In his first attempt at becoming mayor in 2002, Booker ran against twenty-year incumbent Sharpe James. That campaign was the focus of the documentary Street Fight, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

In 2002, Booker founded Newark Now, a nonprofit organization that supplies residents of Newark with the necessary tools, skills and assistance to change their neighborhoods for the better.

In 2006, Booker took over as mayor of a city with widespread gun violence and childhood poverty rates. Since being elected, Booker helped lower Newark’s murder rates by 30 percent in 2008 alone. He has made reducing crime one of his top priorities and has also worked on several campaign-finance rules.

Booker holds a BA and a master’s degree from Stanford University and earned a second bachelor’s degree while attending Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1997 and later served on Newark’s municipal council.

Joining Booker as special commencement guests are James Conlon, Marilyn Horne, Rajendra K. Pachauri, Bill T. Jones, Yisrael Gutman and Stef Wertheimer, all of whom will receive honorary degrees from the university at the ceremony.

James Conlon, music director of the Los Angeles Opera since 2006, has served with some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and symphony orchestras during his more than 30 years as a conductor. Conlon has appeared with nearly every major North American and European opera company and orchestra and has conducted more than 250 performances at the Metropolitan Opera, where he made his debut in 1976. He also served as principal conductor of the Paris National Opera from 1995 to 2004.

In his most recent project, “Recovered Voices,” Conlon brings the music of lesser-known artists from the Holocaust to the Los Angeles stage. Conlon is currently in the midst of a two-year artist residency at the Juilliard School in New York.

In 1981, Opera News deemed Marilyn Horne “probably the greatest singer in the world.” Now the Vocal Program Director at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, Horne started her career with an operatic debut in the role of Hata in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. The American mezzo-soprano would go on to sing opera in many of the world’s great opera houses.

Throughout her internationally-acclaimed career, Horne has sung opera in many of the world’s great opera houses. Horne studied with William Vennard at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and appeared in many productions in Germany’s opera company in Gelsenkirchen.

Indian environmentalist Rajendra K. Pachauri serves as director general of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). Based in New Delhi, India, the organization is dedicated to the research and promotion of environmental sustainability. Today, TERI is viewed as one of the world’s most esteemed research institutes.

Pachauri has been chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 2002. In 2007, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC, along with co-recipient Al Gore.

Pachauri has served the government of India as a member of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council, Advisory Board on Energy and Council on Climate Change.

Bill T. Jones is the co-founder and artistic director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, now in its 25th anniversary season. The ten-member troupe is named after Jones and his late partner, Arnie Zane. The works Jones and Zane choreographed surprised audiences due to their visual aesthetics and the provocative topics they addressed. The troupe has performed in more than 200 cities and 30 countries worldwide.

Jones has choreographed for the Boston Ballet, the Berlin Opera Ballet, the Lyons Opera Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and received a Tony Award in 2007 for his work in Spring Awakening. He was also the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1994.

Israeli entrepreneur and industrialist Stef Wertheimer is responsible for establishing industrial parks in Israel and bordering countries. Through the creation of these parks, Wertheimer has sought to foster create jobs, economic growth and achieve regional stability.

One of Wertheimer‘s parks, Tefen Industrial Park, is one of four parks in Israel that together generate $1 billion in revenue. He has also founded parks in other areas such as Nazareth.

Wertheimer’s metal tool-cutting factory ISCAR, which he started in 1952, is now one of the world’s largest producers of carbide industrial-cutting tools.

For his work, Wertheimer received the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement and Exceptional Contribution to the Nation in 1991.

Israel Gutman is an adviser to the Polish government on Jewish Affairs, Judaism, and Holocaust Commemoration and an Israeli professor of Holocaust issues. Gutman served as professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he earned a Ph.D in 1975.

Gutman currently serves as academic advisor to the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Israel’s Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. Gutman was also editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (1991).

For his work, Gutman has received the Salonika Prize for Literature, the Polish Unification Prizeand the Yitzhak Sadeh prize for Military Studies

Brandeis’ commencement exercises will start at 10:30 a.m. in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.