Press Releases Index

April 18, 2005
CONTACT: Tom McLaughlin
908-737-NEWS (6397)

Kean University to Hold 150th Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

UNION, N.J. ––– Kean University will hold its 150th Commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 12, at 9:30 a.m. at the PNC Bank Arts Center, located off exit 116 on the Garden State Parkway in Holmdel, N.J. Nearly 2,000 undergraduate students are expected to receive their degrees.

“At Kean, we are proud to have played a role in the education and shaping of tomorrow’s leaders. I know that each of our graduates will continue to grow that pride in each of us,” said Kean University President Dawood Farahi.

Anderson Cooper, an Emmy Award-winning anchor for CNN, will be this year’s featured Commencement speaker. Cooper took the helm of Anderson Cooper 360° in September 2003, an unconventional, wide-ranging news program airing on CNN/U.S. weekdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (EDT). Cooper, who joined CNN in December 2001, served as CNN's weekend anchor before moving to the 7 p.m. hour in March 2003 following the war in Iraq.

Since joining CNN, Cooper has anchored major breaking news stories, including the network's overnight coverage of the war in Iraq, as news of the military conflict was unfolding live during the day in Baghdad. Cooper also anchored much of CNN's live coverage of the D.C.-area sniper story and the coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion. Because of his background as a war correspondent for Channel One News, he was sent to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to report on the U.S. military conflict, and to Qatar where he reported on the testing of CENTCOM's new mobile headquarters. Most recently, as a weekday anchor, Cooper was the only Western journalist to interview Liberian president Moses Blah on the day he took office.

Cooper has won several awards for his work, including an Emmy Award for his contribution to ABC's coverage of Princess Diana's funeral; a Silver Plaque from the Chicago International Film Festival for his report from Sarajevo on the Bosnian civil war; a Bronze Telly for his coverage of famine in Somalia; a Bronze Award from the National Educational Film and Video Festival for a report on political Islam; and a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism for his 20/20 Downtown report on gay high school athlete Corey Johnson.

There will be three honorary degrees bestowed by the University during the ceremony. John Kean Sr., a retired chairman for NUI Corporation and a representative of the Kean family will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. Kean Sr. represents the historic link between Kean University and the Kean-Livingston family, who, as far back as 1750, owned the land the University now calls home.

Before retiring in 2004, Kean Sr. was chairman of NUI Corp., which consolidated with AGL Resources, an Atlanta-based energy-services company, in November 2004. A first cousin of former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, John Kean was appointed president and director of NUI Corp. in 1969 and was elevated to chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1980. He also served as president of Elizabethtown Gas Co. from 1963 until it became the principal division of NUI Corp. in 1969.

Beyond his professional career, Kean served in the United States Marine Corps from 1948 until 1950. Later, he was elected mayor of Bedminster Township, N.J., in 1962, and served until 1969. The following year, he assumed a spot on the township committee. Kean was chosen to serve on the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Executive Board in 1962, of which he was president in 1969 and 1970.

Daphne Rubin-Vega, an actress and singer, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The bright lights of Broadway first shone upon Rubin-Vega with her debut as Mimi in the original cast of Rent, for which she won the Theater World Award, as well as Tony and Drama Desk nominations for best actress in a musical. Since then, her meteoric rise to fame has seen her star opposite some of the entertainment industry’s best performers on both stage and on film.

Born in Panama, Rubin-Vega moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village with her mother and stepfather when she was a child. Her career was launched early when she began singing with a girl group called Pajama Party, and an all-Latino comedy troupe called El Barrio USA, which performed at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York.

Since leaving the cast of Rent in 1997, Rubin-Vega has excelled as a recording artist and stage and screen actress, releasing an album of original music titled Souvenirs, as well as several singles. She won the Blockbuster Award for her role as Kevin Bacon's police partner in the movie Wild Things, and she played Robert De Niro's love interest in Flawless. Rubin-Vega was also honored as Best Actress in a Feature Film from the New York Independent Film and Video Festival of 2001 for her performance in Skeleton Woman.

New Jersey Public Defender Yvonne Smith Segars will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. A defense attorney for more than 18 years, Smith Segars, a Kean graduate of the class of 1977, was sworn into office as the New Jersey public defender on September 25, 2002. Recognized as a national leader in the progressive Drug Court movement, she has earned acclaim for her work to establish drug courts in New Jersey, which give non-violent drug offenders the chance to enter the heavily supervised treatment programs aimed at removing the influence of illegal drugs from their lives as an alternative to prison.

Smith Segars was nominated to her current post while serving as first assistant deputy in the Office of the Public Defender’s Essex Adult Regional Office, the largest region in the agency. She first joined the Office of the Public Defender, which provides attorneys for indigent clients in each of the state's 21 counties, in 1985 as an assistant public defender in the Essex Adult Regional Office, after having served as a law clerk for Superior Court Judges Rosemary K. Reavey and Martin Kravarik in Middlesex County. From 1987 to 1990, Smith Segars was with the law firm McManimon and Scotland, LLC., serving as bond counsel to a number of municipalities, boards of education, counties and utilities authorities.

She returned to the Office of the Public Defender in 1991 before being named first assistant deputy in the Essex Adult Region three years later. In that capacity, she was responsible for the management, training and hiring of staff attorneys and outside counsel. In addition to her supervisory and administrative duties, she tried an array of criminal cases ranging from simple assault to multiple homicides.