RUAA Commencement Speakers Three of More than 600,000

RUAA officers Chris Maizys, Gloria Vanderham, and Talib Morgan now and at their commencement ceremonies
In recent photos and at their Rutgers commencement ceremonies, from left, are Chris Maizys LC’93; Gloria Vanderham RC’00, SCILS’00; and Talib Morgan NCAS’96, RBS'98.

A trio of Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA) officers will welcome the Class of 2024—which numbers almost 18,000—into the alumni family at the university’s commencement ceremonies starting May 12.

If the Rutgers University alumni body were an American state, its population would be bigger than Wyoming’s. 

With the addition of this year’s graduating class, the number of Rutgers alumni worldwide will easily surpass 600,000. Three Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA) officers will represent this expansive network at commencement ceremonies which start May 12 and run through May 16:

•  Chair Gloria K. Vanderham RC’00, SCILS’00 will speak at the ceremony at Rutgers–New Brunswick.
•  Vice Chair Talib Morgan NCAS’96, RBS’98 will offer remarks at Rutgers–Newark.
•  Vice Chair Chris Maizys LC’93 will address graduates of Rutgers–Camden.

RUAA Gloria Vanderham with Professor Steven Miller in 2000
Vanderham with Rutgers Professor Steven Miller in 2000.

Vanderham, who became RUAA chair in July 2023, looks back fondly on her own commencement ceremony in 2000, when she was one of two students chosen to represent the what was then known as the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies. She says she remembers sitting with other graduates, “feeling excited and ready, seeing my name in the program guide, looking into the crowd at my family who was beaming with pride and seeing my favorite Professor Steven Miller giving a smile of encouragement.” 

She is inspired to return commencement as a speaker. “I am filled with gratitude, to speak with the next generation of Rutgers leaders, and with nostalgia because Rutgers played such an integral role in shaping not just my career but also my character,” she says. “Rutgers builds resilient, resourceful, and tenacious leaders. I invite all new alumni to join us in helping each other succeed and eagerly anticipate the future accomplishments of our newest alumni.”

Talib Morgan in 1996.
Morgan in 1996.

For Morgan, who was featured in a Rutgers WE ARE YOU video in April, commencement was a bit more nontraditional. He completed his undergraduate degree requirements in fall of 1996 and began working right away. When it came time to officially receive his diploma, he says, “it was odd leaving work early so I could attend the graduation.” 

Since then, he has gathered some insights he is eager to share with the Class of 2024.

“It’s amazing to look back and think about the delta between how much I thought I knew then, and how much I actually knew—to witness my own growth,” he says. “It’s such a journey. I hope my contribution helps prepare the graduates for it and reminds them of how the RUAA family can help them as they progress in life and their careers.”

Chris Maizys in 1993.
Maizys in 1993.

Graduation evokes nostalgia for Maizys as well. He wants graduates to know that he “sat in their seats 31 years ago” when he was dating a fellow Rutgers student. Suzanne Hunt Maizys LC’93 is now his wife of 27 years with whom he shares three children. During his commencement, he sat “with a mixture of fear and apprehension, unsure about my future.” 

“My parents and siblings came and were so proud that I made it,” he says. “It was a big step and a major accomplishment.” 
Maizys, a football season ticket holder who wrote about his tailgate group before last year’s bowl game, says he is eager to share his spirit, enthusiasm, and optimism with this year’s graduating class as they join the Rutgers alumni network. “As they go out into the world, they will need a network of friends and confidantes to help guide them in their future endeavors,” he says. “Networks make things smaller. Rutgers is an amazing place but only the initial step in their career journey.”  


WE ARE YOU is an ongoing series of stories about the people who embody Rutgers University’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence, building community, and the common good.

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