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Celebrating a Day of Revolutionary Thinking

Newswise — It’s been a remarkable 12 months for Rutgers.

In May, President Barack Obama punctuated Rutgers’ yearlong 250th birthday celebration, becoming the first sitting president to deliver the university’s Commencement Day address.

A series of memorable activities throughout the year focused the university community on students, faculty, staff and administrators of the distant past and the present whose special achievements greatly impacted and enriched the Rutgers legacy.

Now, the university is set for a powerful conclusion to the memorable year: A Day of Revolutionary Thinking. On November 10 – its actual 250th birthday – Rutgers is hosting a group of notable alumni, who will present talks in Camden, Newark, New Brunswick and Piscataway. These talks will transfer the knowledge gained by these distinguished graduates to current Rutgers students, who will in turn become the alumni and world leaders of tomorrow.

Rutgers’ special guests include a former White House executive pastry chef, a cybersecurity CEO, a New Jersey Supreme Court associate justice, a physician who was at the forefront of the treatment of pediatric HIV/AIDS and a punk rocker. They are among 80 notable Rutgers alumni from across the globe who were nominated by faculty members who invited them to share their diverse points of view with students and to demonstrate how learning at Rutgers contributed to their successes.

The lineup of invited alumni presenters in New Brunswick, highlighting Rutgers’ global reach, includes Ella Watson-Stryker, honored by TIME magazine as a 2014 Person of the Year for her work as a frontline responder with Doctors Without Borders during the Ebola crisis in West Africa; Kagendo Murungi, a Brooklyn-based Kenyan filmmaker, producer and writer with a background in international sexual and gender rights advocacy; and Michelle Dickinson, a senior lecturer in engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, known as “Nanogirl” in her live science show for children.

On the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences’ Campus in Newark, New Jersey Medical School presents two alumni who are innovative thinkers in medicine. During the early 1980s, James Oleske was among the first to recognize that the disease that would come to be known as AIDS could be transmitted at birth. He spent his career treating and advocating for children with HIV/AIDS and terminal illness. John Bach, who treated actor Christopher Reeve after his spinal cord injury, is a champion for using noninvasive respiratory management options over tracheostomies – reducing infections and improving patient quality of life and survival for certain conditions. “John’s life history is extraordinary; he took care of Andreas Papandreou, the prime minister of Greece,” says Robert Schwartz, professor and head of the Department of Dermatology at New Jersey Medical School. “Invasive respiratory support is very expensive, and John’s contributions can make a difference in the cost of health care.”

When seeking alumni leaders to speak to his class, Louis Masur in the Rutgers University-New Brunswick Department of American Studies sought graduates who exemplify the versatility of an American Studies degree. His two invitees run the gamut: Shane Myers, director for immigration and visa security for the National Security Council, and Lenny Kaye, a pioneering punk rock guitarist and composer, known for his work with the Patti Smith Group.

Myers will explore what it means to be “America,” and not just “American” while abroad in his presentation “America Abroad – Diplomatic Reflections.” “How other countries perceive America is a particularly timely issue,” says Masur. “Myers’ long experience in the State Department as a diplomat will open up that discussion.”

In his presentation, “Rock and Roll and Rutgers,” Kaye will perform musical storytelling to transport the audience into his personal world of rock music from the 1960s to today.

“The take-aways from the talks are for students to pursue their passions,” Masur says. “Come to school, learn how to think, acquire skills and then see where the journey takes you.”

The School of Communication and Information hosts a panel of broadcast journalists who will discuss, among other topics, the presidential election and the changing face of journalism. The journalists include Mike Emanuel, who covers Hillary Clinton’s campaign; FOX correspondent Rich Edson; CBS Newspath correspondent Wendy Gillette; CBS News producer Sean Herbert; and NBC senior talent coordinator Jessica Kurdali.

William Yosses, the White House’s executive pastry chef from 2007 to 2014 who earned a master’s degree in French at Rutgers, will give a chef’s perspective of how things work in the kitchen – including applied physics, bio-chemistry and imagination.

In his lecture-demonstration, “The Magic and Science of Cooking,” Yosses will demonstrate the scientific process of creating two dishes – a fruit cloud and a chocolate ganache – and discuss how a degree in French translated into his career as a chef.

Rutgers University-Camden will present lectures by 20 alumni who will be inducted into the Rutgers-Camden Finest assemblage of distinguished alumni that evening. “These Revolutionary Thinkers exemplify the impressive breadth of excellence that the Rutgers-Camden experience prepares its graduates to achieve,” says Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon. “Having these alumni return to campus to share their insights is an amazing opportunity for our current students. We are proud to welcome these alumni home and to induct them into the Rutgers-Camden Finest alumni honor roll.”

The speakers include Camden Mayor Dana Redd and Camden County Metro Police Chief J. Scott Thomson, who are leading the successful effort to restore and revitalize the city, improve community relations and spur economic growth; Flora Darpino, Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army and the first woman to lead the JAG Corps; Gene Muller, founder, president and CEO of Flying Fish, the world’s first virtual microbrewery and the first microbrewery in Southern New Jersey, and president of South Jersey Tourism; Walter MacDonald, president and CEO of Education Testing Services; and New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina.

“Students will be both inspired and enlightened by the unique opportunity to learn from Justice Fernandez-Vina,” says Jay Feinman, distinguished professor, Rutgers Law School in Camden. “‘Justice Fuzzy’ possesses a remarkable personal story and a wealth of experience as a distinguished trial lawyer, Superior Court judge and now Supreme Court Justice. The rich and wide-ranging class discussion should be a highlight of the students’ law school year.”

In addition to the speakers, there will be a ringing of the bell at Old Queens in New Brunswick at 2:50 p.m. and fireworks can be viewed over the Raritan River on the New Brunswick Campus, from the Gateway Plaza in Camden and from Bradley Hall in Newark.

The lectures are open to the public and alumni, but spaces are limited and guests must register on the Rutgers 250 website (http://250.rutgers.edu).