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Kean University

Kean Awards Bachelor’s Degrees to Over 2,800 Graduates

Kean University’s undergraduate Class of 2024 celebrated an out-of-this-world graduation with family, friends and a powerful “reality check” from commencement speaker and renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D.

The festive Undergraduate Commencement ceremony was held Thursday, May 16, at the Prudential Center in Newark. Kean awarded over 2,800 bachelor’s degrees this year.

Browse downloadable photos of Kean's Undergraduate Commencement ceremony.

Tyson set the tone of the ceremony with a message for the graduates on the importance of lifelong learning. 

“You want to climb higher? Be ready to do some climbing after you get out,” he said. 

The scientist known for high-profile television appearances, including PBS Nova, The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons, sprinkled his speech with references ranging from Apollo astronauts to rock star Alice Cooper, and ended his remarks with advice.

“I want to create a world where if aliens came to visit, they wouldn't look around and run back home and say, ‘There's no sign of intelligent life on Earth,’” Tyson said. “Rise up to this challenge. Make decisions in the interest of our health, our wealth, our security, so subsequent generations can look back on you, on us, and be proud of the decisions we have made.”

Tyson received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Kean for his remarkable contributions to the field of astrophysics. A second honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters was presented to Patricia Graleski in recognition of her longtime support of the University.

Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., told the graduates he thinks of them as his class because many began their college journeys the same year he started as University president, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

“Graduates, your stories inspire us all, reminding us of the power of education,” he said. “As you go forth today, know that you carry more than a degree. You are empowered by the capacity to inspire change, the potential to lead, and the responsibility to contribute meaningfully to your communities.”

Exuberant Kean graduates reveled in the day, waving to family members in the stands, smiling with classmates and taking selfies as they processed into the arena to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance.

“I’m excited and nervous,” said Jaclyn Smith of Brick, a Kean Ocean graduate who earned her degree in business management, as a crowd of family watched.

Marcus House of Montclair, a Kean football player who earned his degree in criminal justice, said he was proud to be graduating.

“It was a grind being a student athlete, but it was worth it," he said. "It means a lot to see my mom smile and my family smile, knowing that I did five years of hard work.”

Roselor Jules of West Orange, who earned a degree in public health, wore a crown atop her mortarboard to honor her mother, who passed away in January. Jules, a mother of two who works in health care, received her second college degree at age 55. 

“There were many times I wanted to say, ‘The heck with it,’” she said. “But I persevered. Getting my degree in public health will help me make real change in the healthcare system for people of color.”

Carlette Halley, of Jersey City, cheered for her daughter, Yah'na Halley, who earned a degree in psychology. 

“I was here at 6 a.m. to watch my firstborn walk down the stage to get her degree,” Halley said. “She's an example and a role model for her five siblings and her cousins.”

The Commencement ceremony included student reflections from Valedictorian Maliha Haider, who received her degree in computer science, and Senior Class President Glynnis Tan, who earned her degree in global business.

“To my fellow graduates, congratulations!” Haider said. “Today we celebrate not only our academic achievements but also the resilience that brought us to this moment.”

Both thanked friends, family and Kean faculty and staff.

“As we bid farewell to one chapter, I am filled with a sense of pride and excitement for what lies ahead,” Tan said. “This is not the end or goodbye. This is a hello to new beginnings.”

Graduating students crossed the stage one-by-one to receive their degrees, shaking hands with their college deans. Finally, the graduates stood and degrees were conferred, to resounding applause, followed by the traditional tassel turn on their graduation caps.

Included among the new alumni was Alyson Ballard of Brick, who overcame challenges related to cerebral palsy during her academic journey.

“It means a lot to me to graduate,” said Ballard, who earned her liberal arts degree from Kean Online. “It took a lot to get here, especially because of my disability, so I'm very, very proud right now.”

Kean University held its Graduate Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14.