Rutgers Celebrates its 250th Year

By Jennie Perullo

Rutgers University kicked off its year-long 250 anniversary in revolutionary style on Nov. 10 on Old Queens Lawn in New Brunswick.

From 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the lawn at Old Queens on College Avenue, the event had a fife-and-drum corps and a bell choir play.  The premiere screening of the 250 anniversary film, Our Revolutionary Spirit, which celebrates people and events from the past and present of Rutgers University also took place.  There were quizzes on Rutgers knowledge and a commemorative scroll that anyone in attendance can sign to mark the occasion.  At the end of the event, bells were rung to mark the beginning of the yearlong 250 birthday celebration.

“The kick start event will really be the catalyst in getting the student body excited for the 250 year,” junior Casey Murphy, part of the revolutionary 250 team said before the event took place.  “It’s such an amazing thing that Rutgers has been revolutionary for 250 years, being older than the country itself.  The kick start event is what will bring the Rutgers community together and when a community is celebrating one thing in common it’s an electric feeling and brings such a strong feeling of unity to the Rutgers family.”

The university was chartered in 1766 as Queen’s College, but changed its name to Rutgers in 1825 to honor Revolutionary War veteran Henry Rutgers who gave donations to the school.  Rutgers was declared New Jersey’s State University in 1945, but wasn’t recognized by the state until 1956.

Before the university turns 250, Rutgers has had some important changes in the past few years.  It joined the Big Ten in athletics, a very well established conference.  It added a residential honors college and merged with New Jersey’s medical school.

Rutgers’ athletics has expanded tremendously since playing the first collegiate football game against Princeton in 1869.  The university’s athletic program officially joined the Big Ten Conference in 2014, leaving the Big East where it has been competing since 1991.  This means more exposure for all sports, not only football.  The Big Ten is one of the top conferences in the nation.  Rutgers now has a higher level of competition, coverage and recognition for all of its sports teams.  Julie Hermann, the athletic director at Rutgers, has been committed to getting an indoor training facility for the baseball and softball teams and with the Big Ten bringing Rutgers up to a larger scale for athletics, it is finally coming into the works.

“Joining the Big Ten has certainly raised our game and allowed us to quickly expose our players to the highest level of college athletics and lacrosse,” said Laura Brand-Sias, head coach of the women’s lacrosse team.  “With that level comes a greater work load and dedication. Our group has really bought in to the changes needed to quickly grow in the Big Ten.”

Academics at Rutgers have continued to aim for higher excellence as well.  This year, the university unveiled a residential Honors College.  The brand new College Avenue Campus building houses first-year honors students as well as faculty and features high-tech seminar rooms, study lounges and an outdoor courtyard for the complete living and learning experience.

“The Honors College facility integrates a student residence with seminar rooms, onsite advising offices, and three live-in professors to create a living-learning community,” said Matt Matsuda, academic dean of the Honors Program.  “There, students from across the liberal arts and professional schools live and work together in a hands-on environment to tackle global challenges.  The Honors College is built on a legacy of honors education at Rutgers, and is redefining interdisciplinary education.”

In 2013, Rutgers University merged with many departments in the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and took on many of their programs and students.  The New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act was passed and signed into law in 2012 combining most units of UMDNJ with Rutgers on July 1, 2013.  This was the largest higher education merger in U.S. history.

The Old Queens Bell, which Col. Rutgers gave to Rutgers as a gift back in 1826, is only rung now on special occasions.  It rang when UMDNJ merged with Rutgers and on Nov. 10 when the 250 celebrations officially began.