An Exceptional Quintet of Rutgers Alumni

Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni
From left, Mike Emanuel, Senator Ray Lesniak, Patricia Devitt Risse, Jeffrey Bluestone. and Wade Henderson. Photos by John O'Boyle.

Five outstanding Rutgers University graduates were inducted into the university’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni on Thursday night.

Career accomplishments of the five new honorees inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni on Thursday night range from leading New Jersey state government and crafting transformational legislation, to ensuring fair treatment and civil rights for all, to making tremendous advances in health care and the treatment of cancer and other diseases, and to reporting on national events for an audience of millions.

Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni ceremony
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway addressing the ceremony.

The outstanding alumni were officially inducted during a ceremony held at the Stone House at Stirling Ridge in Warren, New Jersey.

Senator Raymond J. Lesniak RC’71, who served in the New Jersey Legislature from 1978 through 2018, led off the inductions and was joined by the following inductees:

•    Patricia Devitt Risse PHARM’85, GSNB’93, a dynamic leader and founder of a company that supported the development of multiple cancer treatments approved by the FDA and used by cancer patients today.

•    Wade J. Henderson NLAW’73, a civil rights veteran who serves as an adviser to major corporations, foundations, and nonprofits on matters relating to civil and human rights, diversity, and inclusion. He served as president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights from 1996 to 2017.

•    Mike Emanuel RC’90, Fox News Channel’s chief Washington correspondent and an anchor for “Fox News Live.” He joined the network in 1997 as a correspondent.

•    Jeffrey Bluestone CC’74, GSNB’76, an internationally recognized immunologist whose four decades of innovative research have led to the development of multiple immunotherapies, including breakthroughs in treating autoimmunity, metastatic melanoma and other cancers, and diabetes.

Ray Lesniak at Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni ceremony
Senator Ray Lesniak

Lesniak, founder and president of the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership at Kean University, was a trailblazer leading the passage of landmark progressive legislation that protected the environment, ended the death penalty, and advanced marriage equality in New Jersey. He credits Rutgers for sticking with him while he completed an undergraduate degree in economics after a few false starts and serving in the U.S. Army. “Seven of the best years of my life were as an undergraduate at Rutgers University,” he said. 

Patrica Devitt Risse receiving HDA medal
Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy Dean Joseph A. Barone nominated Risse.

Risse devoted much of her career to testing oncology drugs, including founding an award-winning company, and achieved great success with groundbreaking work in the fight against breast cancer. She said she cherishes her long association with the Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, where she began as a student in 1980, going on to earn undergraduate and doctoral degrees. “The changes that have happened to the school over the past 40 years have been transformational,” she said. “The facilities, the educational programs, and the focus on an interdisciplinary health care approach provides students with a tremendous platform to launch a fulfilling career with limitless possibilities.”     

Oliver Quinn and Wade Henderson at Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni ceremony
Oliver Quinn NLAW'75, a 2020 inductee, nominated Henderson.

Henderson, a graduate of Rutgers Law School in Newark whose career also included leadership roles with the NAACP, the ACLU, and the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), said he was accepting the honor in memory of Rutgers Law Professor Alfred Slocum “for his for his devotion to educating me and others on the power and meaning of law in pursuit of justice. Because of Slocum and some of his colleagues at Rutgers, I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change; instead, I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”

Mike Emanuel at Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni ceremony
Mike Emanuel

Emanuel, who graduated with a degree in communication and a minor in religion, has had a front row seat to presidential administrations during his almost 25 years with Fox News in Washington. During that time, he has mentored many Rutgers students. “The truth is I probably receive at least as much as I give,” Emanuel said. “I return to my busy life energized by the interaction with Rutgers students after seeing the dreams in their eyes that remind me of my own when I was a student here with big dreams.”

Jeff Bluestone speaking at Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni ceremony
Jeffrey Bluestone

Bluestone, who earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s in microbiology at Rutgers, says the foundation of his career began at Rutgers. “Throughout my career I have been guided by three core principles: an unwavering commitment to impactful research, the power of collaboration, and the drive to make a difference in the world,” he said. “All three have at their root my experience as an undergrad at Cook College when I became passionate about research and committed to the study of human disease.”

Introduced in 1987, the Hall of Distinguished Alumni’s first class of inductees included Paul Robeson and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. Since then, more than 200 alumni have been inducted, including five former New Jersey governors, recent Emmy Award-winning actor Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Carli Lloyd, a professional soccer star who led the U.S. team to two Olympic gold medals. Inductees are selected by the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA) Board of Directors, which leads the association made up of almost 600,000 Rutgers alumni worldwide. 

For more information, visit the following links: Inductee Announcement; Profiles of Inductees; and Honoree Biographies.



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