Bill Moyers, Legendary Broadcast Journalist, Named Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s 250th Anniversary Commencement Speaker

Bill Moyers, Legendary Broadcast Journalist, Named Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s 250th Anniversary Commencement Speaker

Renowned astronomer S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell joins Moyers as honorary degree recipient

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers University-New Brunswick has chosen Bill Moyers as the 250th anniversary commencement speaker, Rutgers’ Board of Governors announced today.

Moyers will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the May 15, 12:30 p.m., ceremony at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway. He will be joined by renowned astronomer S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, visiting professor, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, and pro-chancellor, Trinity College, Dublin, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

The board also announced that Sister Mary Scullion, an advocate for the homeless and mentally ill, and co-founder of Project HOME, a model for integrated health care that serves the homeless in Philadelphia, and Raymond Ackerman, a South African entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of Pick n Pay, the second largest supermarket chain in South Africa, each will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at Rutgers University-Camden’s commencement  on May 19.

Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers
Photo: Dale Robbins
Rutgers University-Newark previously announced that Wendell Pierce, acclaimed actor, radio personality, author and humanitarian, will be its commencement speaker on May 18 and receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. He will be joined by human rights activist and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General Radhika Coomaraswamy, who will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Moyers has been a major figure in public journalism and public affairs for more than four decades. He began his journalism career at 16 as a cub reporter for his daily hometown newspaper in Marshall, Texas. After graduating from the University of Texas, his studies led him from the School of Divinity, New College at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas where he received his Master of Divinity degree.

In 1960, he changed paths by joining the staff of the Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson. After the election, Moyers became a founding organizer and deputy director of the Peace Corps (1962-63) and special assistant to President Johnson for domestic policy before serving as his press secretary from 1965-67. He was publisher of Newsday for three years before joining the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in 1971, hosting Bill Moyers Journal. He served as senior correspondent for the CBS documentary series CBS Reports and for five years was senior news analyst of the CBS Evening News. He is president of the Schumann Media Center, a nonprofit organization for the support of independent journalism.

Moyers and his wife, Judith Davidson Moyers, have been responsible for highly praised explorations of death and dying, addiction and recovery, and faith and reason, as well as the acclaimed PBS series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth; America’s First River: Bill Moyers on the Hudson; The Language of Life; Genesis: A Living Conversation; The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith; Becoming American: The Chinese Experience and Amazing Grace.  Until their retirement in January of 2015, they also produced the weekly television series NOW with Bill Moyers (2002–2004), Bill Moyers Journal (2007–2010) and Moyers & Company (2012–2015). 

For his work, Moyers has received more than 36 Emmys, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, nine Peabodys and three George Polk Awards. Moyers received the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by the American Film Institute in the first year it was bestowed. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he received the Career Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association and the PEN USA Courageous Advocacy Award and has been honored with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995.

S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell
S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell
A best-selling author, Moyers’ works include Listening to America, Moyers on America: A Journalist and his Times, Moyers on Democracy and Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues.

S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell played a central role in the development of radio astronomy through her discovery of the first pulsars as a graduate student at the University of Cambridge in the 1960s. Pulsars are the rapidly spinning, highly magnetized, extremely compact and dense neutron star remnants left behind after explosions of stars that produce a rotating beam of emission and can be considered “the most accurate clocks in the universe.”

Bell Burnell and her thesis supervisor, Professor Antony Hewish, shared the 1973 Albert A. Michelson Medal from the Franklin Institute for their work, but she did not join him and Cambridge Professor Martin Ryle in receiving the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, an omission Scientific American called one of the “Top 10 Nobel Snubs” in history. In 1987, however, the scientific importance of her pulsar discovery resulted in Bell Burnell being the sole recipient of the inaugural Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society, which honors “contributions that are of an exceptionally creative or innovative character and that have played a seminal role in furthering our understanding of the universe.”

Bell Burnell, who as a member of the first generation of pioneering female scientists had to overcome discrimination by her male counterparts, became a professor of physics in 1991 at the Open University – a United Kingdom institution focusing on serving nontraditional students. In the four years after becoming department chair – her appointment represented a doubling of the number of female physics professors across the entire country – research income increased by a factor of five.

Bell Burnell’s professional renaissance has continued into the present, with terms as visiting professor for distinguished teaching at Princeton University and dean of science at the University of Bath preceding her current appointments. She also has assumed leadership positions in scientific organizations, most notably serving as president of the Royal Astronomical Society (2002-04), the Institute of Physics (2008-10) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014-present). In the UK, she received the 2015 Royal Medal and has been recognized as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is a Dame of the British Empire.

In the U.S., Bell Burnell has received Foreign Associate status in the National Academy of Sciences and the Jansky Lectureship of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.