Rutgers University inaugurates first Black president

Jonathan Holloway became the New Jersey school's first Black president in its 250-year history

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Rutgers University inaugurated its first Black president earlier this month, the first Black president in the school’s 250-year history.

Jonathan Holloway, who was announced as the school’s 21st president last year, celebrated the historic moment with faculty and students during a two-hour ceremony in early November.

“It’s a great honor to stand before you today,” said Holloway during the celebration.

While Holloway assumed his role as the head of the school last year, the official inauguration was postponed for over a year due to the pandemic.

“As I have learned over the course of my 18 months in office, this honor does not come freely, nor does it come without its difficulties,” Holloway said.

The Hawaiian-born father of two led the university throughout the unprecedented pandemic, even taking a 10% pay cut and approving tuition and fee freezes.

He replaced Robert L. Barchi, the physicist who served as president of the New Jersey school for eight years beginning in 2012.

Rutgers officials said that Holloway’s well-rounded background, in both academics and athletics, ultimately led to him being chosen.

Prior to his appointment, the school had 20 white male presidents.

Jonathan Holloway - theGrio.com
Rutgers celebrates the inauguration of the first African American president, Jonathan Holloway, as the 21st President of Rutgers on November 5, 2021. (PhotoCred: Chris Pelota/ NorthJersey)

Holloway has raked up degrees from some of the most esteemed universities in the U.S. He received a bachelor’s degree with honors in American studies from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in history from Yale University. At Stanford, he played football alongside U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), according to NJ.com.

Before starting his new position at Rutgers, Holloway was hired as provost at Northwestern University in 2017. Before Northwestern, he was dean of Yale College, which is considered one of the most prestigious positions in academia. He has also raised more than $10 million for the Scarlet Promise Grant Program, which supports students going through financial hardships.

During his speech, he celebrated the more than 9,000 students who have received funds from the program and committed to raising more than $50 million in the next couple of years.

During the ceremony, Holloway also announced the building of a technology hub on Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus and the “Rutgers Summer Service,” an initiative to get 150 students paid public service internships.

In addition to the school staff, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was also in attendance at the ceremony. 

Murphy initially praised Holloway when his appointment was first announced, tweeting that he “clearly showed he had the vision & experience to put the needs of students first & lead Rutgers to the next level.” He also asked him to join his Restart & Recovery Commission, which consists of expert state leaders who help guide and advise the governor through New Jersey’s reopening.

theGrio’s Shawn Grant contributed to this report.

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