Newswise — Glassboro, NJ – Rowan University announced, today, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and State Senator Donald Norcross will be honored during this year’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, scheduled for Friday, May 16. In his report to the Rowan Board of Trustees, President Ali Houshmand informed the Board members that the Governor had accepted his invitation to deliver the keynote address to the Class of 2014. The Board later approved a resolution to bestow honorary degrees on the Governor and on Senators Sweeney and Norcross.

“We are excited that Governor Christie has accepted the invitation to address our graduates at this year’s ceremony,” said Linda Rohrer, chair of the Rowan University Board of Trustees. “And Rowan is proud to award honorary degrees to the Governor and to Senators Sweeney and Norcross. For decades, state leaders have proposed changes to improve New Jersey’s higher education system, but it took the foresight and perseverance of these three to make a profound difference in higher education, health care and the economy of our state. Together, they have created a legacy that will benefit generations of New Jersey residents.”

Sens. Sweeney and Norcross were instrumental in partnering Rowan in the co-founding of the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) in 2009, and, all three leaders championed the passage of the landmark New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act three years later. Together, those initiatives will result in hundreds of new physicians to address the state’s looming shortage health care providers and leverage the State’s educational and research assets to support the growth of vital health care services and biomedical research.

“I’m not certain that people realize the significance of what these three men have done,” Houshmand said. “Their vision for higher education has created an economic engine that will drive our region for many years. Our new research status will attract the best and the brightest to our region, leading to discoveries that improve lives and invite investment in job-creating businesses. Because of their efforts, quality higher education is once again within the reach of New Jersey’s families, reversing the tide of students who leave our state to pursue college degrees. Those students now can remain here, becoming part of a better educated workforce that entices businesses to launch or relocate in South Jersey.”

Under the Restructuring Act, Rowan was designated a comprehensive public research university and became only the second university in the country to offer both D.O. and M.D. medical degrees. Since the passage of that legislation, Rowan has seen a 35 percent increase in federal grants along with a significant increase in the number of grants it has received from the state and from private foundations. The largest of those grants include $2.4 million from the State’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency; $3.04 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; $1 million from the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation and $998,100 from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

“Statistics show that every dollar of federal research funding generates more than two dollars in local economic activity,” Houshmand said. “More research and expanded educational programs will spur growth throughout every level of our region’s economy.” The Act also partners Rowan with Rutgers-Camden in a unique collaborative effort to develop health sciences programs in Camden. This initiative will address the region’s critical health care needs by educating professionals and fostering research in a variety of health disciplines.

The Governor and Senators also were instrumental in the development of the Building Our Future Bond Act, the first capital project bond fund for higher education approved by New Jersey voters in more than 25 years. The Act is enabling colleges and universities across the state to increase access and improve academic offerings. Rowan will construct new facilities for the College of Engineering and Rohrer College of Business thanks to a $117-million allocation, the second largest amount to a college or university in the State. The new buildings will facilitate our growth in enrollment and programs in very important education areas and help us meet our goal of enrolling 25,000 students by 2023 and improve educational opportunities for the State.

“We are proud to honor Governor Christie, Senator Sweeney and Senator Norcross not only for their unflagging support of Rowan University, but for all that they have done to enable us to grow and lead South Jersey in ways never before imagined,” Rohrer said. “Their vision for higher education has been transformative. In a politically complex state, they have worked together and with others to make a profound difference in education, health care and business in New Jersey for generations to come. What they have achieved, many have tried before and failed. Because of them, our entire region grows.”

At today’s Board of Trustees meeting, Houshmand also announced that Arthur Levine, the sixth president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the former president of the Teachers College of Columbia University and of Bradford College, has accepted an invitation to deliver the keynote at the Graduate Commencement Ceremony on May 15.

At Houshmand’s recommendation, the Board also approved a resolution awarding Dr. Art Barolozzi an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree for his many contributions to Rowan University, athletics and health care. A nationally recognized orthopedic surgeon who has treated world-class athletes in every sport, Bartolozzi is a former team physician for the Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers and Phantoms. He has devoted more than 20 years as the Rowan athletic department’s physician, serving as a mentor to Rowan’s student and professional athletic trainers. He was inducted into the Rowan Athletic Trainer Hall of Fame in 2012.

Rowan University’s 2014 graduating class of nearly 2,300 undergraduate students and 500 graduate students is the largest in the university’s history.

About Rowan UniversityRowan University is a state-designated public research institution with campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, N.J., that offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs to 14,000 students. In the past two years, Rowan created a School of Biomedical Sciences; opened the Camden-based Cooper Medical School of Rowan University; and incorporated the School of Osteopathic Medicine and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, making Rowan only the second university in the nation to grant both M.D. and D.O. medical degrees. Rowan also is slated to collaborate with Rutgers-Camden to create a new College of Health Sciences in Camden, with degree programs related to the growth of medical services needed in the future. Recently designated by the State as only the second comprehensive public research institution in New Jersey, Rowan plans to increase sponsored research to $100 million per year. These new initiatives will add to Rowan’s Rohrer College of Business and colleges of Communication and Creative Arts, Education, Engineering, Graduate and Continuing Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, Performing Arts, and Science and Mathematics.