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48th Governor of the State of New Jersey
Rutgers University takes great pleasure in welcoming the Honorable Thomas H. Kean as the 248th Anniversary Commencement speaker.
He is a vocal proponent of the cultural and economic value of education and one of the most respected public servants of our time. Known for his dedication to bipartisan leadership, he is well regarded for his role as governor of the State of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990. He has a distinguished national and international profile, and served as the chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission). He is also a celebrated educational leader. He began his career as a high school teacher and served as president of Drew University from 1990 to 2005. Additionally, he headed the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, which made recommendations leading to the historic integration of most units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with Rutgers.
While governor of New Jersey, Newsweek rated Kean among America’s most effective state leaders. He was noted for tax cuts that spurred 750,000 new jobs, and for a federally replicated welfare reform program, landmark environmental policies, and more than 30 education reforms. In this role, he further demonstrated his commitment to education by serving on the President’s Education Policy Advisory Committee and as chair of the Education Commission of the States and the National Governors Association Task Force on Teaching. He was reelected for a second term by the largest margin in state history and remains one of the most popular New Jersey governors of all time.
When his governorship came to an end, he became president of Drew University. During his 15-year tenure, he shaped Drew into one of the nation’s leading small liberal arts universities. Under his watch, applications increased by more than 40 percent, the endowment nearly tripled, and $60 million was committed to building construction and renovations.
While president of Drew, Kean was named by President George W. Bush to chair the 9/11 Commission, formed to investigate and document the circumstances of the September 11, 2001, acts of terrorism and to develop suggestions to prevent further attacks. The commission’s recommendations triggered the largest intelligence reform in the nation’s history and its report quickly became a national best seller. He then served as chair of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a nonprofit entity created with private funds to continue the commission’s work.
In addition to coauthoring the 9/11 Commission report, Kean cowrote Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (2006). He was the sole author of The Politics of Inclusion (1988) and pens a Star-Ledger column with former Governor Brendan Byrne. He also appeared as a regular commentator on New Jersey Network News.
Having served on numerous committees and commissions as well as corporate and nonprofit boards, Kean is currently chair of the Carnegie Corporation of New York board of trustees and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Other notable past roles include being an advisory board member for President William J. Clinton’s Initiative on Race and chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation board of trustees.
Holding a bachelor of arts from Princeton University and a master of arts from Columbia University Teachers College, Kean has been awarded more than 30 honorary degrees. One of them is a Doctor of Laws from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which he garnered in 1982.