The university’s 250th milestone is one that few higher education institutions have achieved.
To view “Our Revolutionary Spirit: A Short Film for Rutgers’ 250th Anniversary,” click here.
Founded a decade before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Rutgers has transformed from a small, predominantly white all-male college located in New Brunswick into one of the nation’s most diverse and rigorous public research universities with locations across the state and a presence in the Big Ten athletic conference.
In honor of the university’s many accomplishments, the Empire State Building — one of the most famous buildings in the world — will be lit in scarlet tonight to mark the occasion.
“And I feel even greater satisfaction in looking forward and seeing how Rutgers is empowering generations of students to become leaders in fields that our founders could never have even imagined,” Barchi added.
Today’s universitywide “Day of Revolutionary Thinking” concludes a yearlong celebration marked by commemorative events for everyone, including special classes and publications, symposia, exhibitions and concerts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Rutgers University-Newark, Rutgers University-Camden and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
The occasion of the 250th saw new buildings open on every campus, a national celebration in Washington, D.C., and most notably the first visit by a sitting United States president at a Rutgers commencement.
In fact, President Barack Obama’s address to 2016 graduates focused on the very history of debate and discourse that has set Rutgers apart for 250 years.
“America converges here,” Obama told a global audience of students, faculty, families and friends. “And in so many ways, the history of Rutgers mirrors the evolution of America – the course by which we became bigger, stronger and richer and more dynamic, and a more inclusive nation.”
President Obama follows a long line of public figures who have come to campus for a variety of activities over the past 250 years, says Paul G.E. Clemens, professor of history and author of Rutgers Since 1945: A History of the State University of New Jersey. “It’s symbolically important to have someone of prominence come to speak,” he says.
Today, in keeping with that tradition, nearly 80 distinguished alumni from across the globe — from scholars and scientists to activists and performers — will return to Rutgers to discuss their work with students and how their education contributed to their success.
The university’s alumni have made notable contributions to history dating back to the Revolutionary War.
A select few — including scholar-athlete Paul Robeson; Selman Waksman, whose research led to the discovery of at least 20 antibiotics and earned him the Nobel Prize; and Mary Bunting, who paved inroads to coeducation at top universities — were profiled in the commemorative publication Rutgers Revolutionaries.
Featuring the Rutgers people and innovations that have changed lives around the world, the compilation spans from Simeon De Witt, one of Rutgers’ first graduates who served as surveyor general for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, to 2016 graduate Katherine Lau, a biomedical engineering student who built a 3-D printed prosthetic hand for a preschooler.
The 250th celebration also has brought to life an eclectic mix of historical narrative and archival artifacts recorded in the commemorative book Rutgers: A 250th Anniversary Portrait and the exhibition “Rutgers through the Centuries: 250 Years of Treasures from the Archives.”
At the center of the university’s history is its relationship with the state, which began in 1864 when Rutgers was designated as a land-grant college for New Jersey and continues to this day as nearly half of Rutgers’ 486,000 living alumni and most of our students call New Jersey home.
In honor of that relationship, civic and religious buildings in all of the university’s host communities will ring their bells at 2:50 p.m. today for 250 seconds in unison with the ringing of the Old Queens bell at Rutgers.
The historic bell, located atop one of the university’s oldest buildings, was donated to the institution by benefactor and namesake Henry Rutgers when the school was a small, struggling, private college, and long before Rutgers was officially designated the State University of New Jersey in 1946.
“An ongoing story central to Rutgers’ history is the institution’s effort to solidify, protect and improve our relationship to the state of New Jersey,” Clemens says.
But it’s the university’s students who continue to drive Rutgers’ story.
What started as a small group of men facing the challenges of a Revolutionary War in 1766 has grown into a student body of 69,000 from all 50 states and 115 countries studying in a broad range of fields including health care, law, business, engineering, sciences, the arts and the humanities.
Those students will join in the commemoration of a milestone only seven other institutions of higher learning have achieved nationally.
Today they will celebrate with festivals and fireworks in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick at 6 p.m. The fireworks will be live streamed and can be seen by Rutgers alumni and friends anywhere in the world.
Anchored in the university’s 250 years of history, today’s students remain poised to continue the university’s tradition of excellence in the years to come.
“An anniversary presents an occasion to tell your story,” says Thomas Frusciano, university archivist. “The celebration of Rutgers’ 250th birthday alerted people to the fact that we are this old and have such a rich history.”
“All the events surrounding our year of celebration have presented wonderful opportunities to bring this history to current students,” Frusciano. “These people from the near and distant past walked through the same doors and then went on to make their mark in the world. Today’s students will continue their legacy.”