The eighth annual Rutgers Day drew a record crowd of more than 100,000 at the university’s three locations – providing visitors the opportunity to learn about New Jersey’s oldest public university as it celebrates its 250th anniversary.
The popular spring event, which began at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in 2009, was held this year for the first time at Rutgers University-Newark and Rutgers University-Camden. All three institutions of higher learning gave visitors a peek at the research, service and education taking place throughout Rutgers.
“This is a great way to see Rutgers,” said Renee Junez, a high school junior from Clifton who considers Rutgers high on his list of potential universities to attend. “I really like what I see.”
With more than 500 programs, Rutgers Day has become a spring tradition and a show-and-tell for New Jersey residents of all ages. The event, which coincided with Alumni Weekend, kicked off in the morning in New Brunswick on College Avenue with a parade led by alumni from the Class of 1966 who were followed by alumni ranging from the Class of 1943 to this year’s graduating seniors. The Immaculata High School Marching Band of Somerville joined in the festivities, while the Rutgers Marching Band guided the parade through Voorhees Mall playing the “Rutgers Fight Song.”
At Rutgers-Newark, 3,500 visitors took advantage of the afternoon sunny skies to take part in family-fun activities, such as recreating the campus with Lego building blocks; drilling for “oil” and separating “iron ore” with magnets in a mineral exploration game devised by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; and sowing the seeds of personal gardens, which they could take home with them.
Others visiting the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience booth at Rutgers-Newark tested their brain skills in a maze game typically used with mechanical toy rats for brain research. The center also provided sessions on brain development and tips for brain-healthy lifestyles.
Pearl Smith of Newark first learned of Rutgers Day from a flyer her 7-year-old daughter brought home from school. “There are a lot of activities for kids – and it’s educational, too,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, Rutgers Day activities in Camden got started with a World Tai Chi Day demonstration led by Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon and Camden Mayor Dana Redd. The 2,900 visitors of all ages walked the 40-acre campus near the historic Camden waterfront to explore science, technology, the arts, world cultures, health, business and more through interactive and immersive activities throughout the day. Activities included a campuswide Rutgers-Camden history scavenger hunt; Rutgers Law School moot courtroom exploration; an art history photo booth; games with resident assistants; Rutgers-themed art projects; live musical and theater performances; and more.
The day also included a performance by the Camden Sophisticated Sisters Drill and Dance Team in front of the Paul Robeson Library. The talented and spirited team motivates, educates and empowers Camden youth through dance and the performing arts. Discovery tours of Johnson Park and the Cooper Street Historic District allowed visitors to explore the vibrant city, and participants even got to meet a couple of celebrities as Abe Lincoln and R2D2 made their way around campus.
On Busch Campus in Piscataway, red and white balloons bobbed across the Circle of Allied Health, where 18 tables represented the many programs in the School of Health Related Professions. Physical therapists challenged people of all ages to test their physical fitness with sit-ups on the lawn.
Alumni Jeff Armbruster of Mays Landing, who graduated in 1987, brought his 17-year-old son, Mark, a prospective student. Mark, who had been considering smaller schools, looked around at a campus buzzing with energy and activity.
“The other schools weren’t like this,” Mark Armbruster said. “I just like the feel of everything here.”
To help commemorate the 250th anniversary, visitors were treated to a history lesson at the entrance to Old Queens lawn in New Brunswick. Actors portraying Paul Robeson, Mabel Smith Douglass and Colonel Henry Rutgers held court, telling those passing by about their pivotal roles in Rutgers history.
At the Rutgers 250 big tent, Rutgers Day attendees completed a scavenger hunt to learn facts about Rutgers’ 250-year history and earn Rutgers 250 T-shirts. Madison Patalano, age 4, donned pint-sized commencement regalia after making her own Rutgers Day diploma at the Rutgers Undergraduate Admissions booth and then posed with “President” Marco Dinovelli, a Class of 2003 graduate and admissions employee, for a graduation photo.
“We’ve been coming to Rutgers Day since she was born,” said Christine Patalano, a Rutgers alumna who teaches in Edison schools.
Musical performances are always a big part of Rutgers Day. In Camden, event goers listened to “The Symphony in C Quartet,” a professional training orchestra as well as a series of short concerts by music and theater students at the Black Box Studio and Gordon Theater. The Newark performance stage featured SASS Fusion Dance, Brick City Bhangra, Rutgers Hip Hop Operation and The Ubuntu Theory. NJPAC’s Jazz for Teens also played and musicians affiliated with Rutgers’ Institute of Jazz Studies gave Rutgers Day visitors lessons to play a short tune.
In New Brunswick – which drew a record-breaking 94,000 – the Rutgers Children’s Choir and the Scarlet Singers performed on College Avenue and at the 42nd annual New Jersey Folk Festival musician and New Jersey native and Rutgers alumnus Barry Mitterhoff, who plays the mandolin, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award before performing with banjo master Tony Trischhka and his group Skyline.
“This is such an amazing atmosphere and a chance for so many performers to get an opportunity to present themselves,” said Karen Stroczyviski of Rockaway, who graduated from Rutgers-New Brunswick in 1981 and was at Rutgers Day with her husband, Henry, a 1979 Rutgers-New Brunswick graduate.