Rutgers Prez Says LeGrand Will Speak At Graduation, Blames ‘Miscommunication’
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Rutgers president Robert Barchi said Tuesday the university has ironed out a “miscommunication” with Eric LeGrand, who will be speaking at this month’s graduation ceremony after all.
LeGrand, the former Rutgers football player who was paralyzed from the neck down during a game against Army in 2010, said Monday night on Twitter that he was ready to give the commencement address on May 18 until he was unceremoniously dumped “for political reasons.”
“I kind of felt disrespected, like why not letting me know, talk it out, you know? I’m happy I stuck up for myself, something I really needed to do,” Legrand told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
But everything was cleared up in a phone call Tuesday from Barchi.
“Eric LeGrand will speak at our Commencement and personally receive his degree from me as a representative of the Class of 2014,” Barchi said in a statement Tuesday. “It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate.
“Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community. We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion ever more memorable,” Barchi added.
The 23-year-old finished his schooling in January, receiving a bachelor’s degree in labor studies.
LeGrand previously expressed dismay to a local newspaper, saying he was offered the commencement speech after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out amid outcry from students and faculty. But then he found out Monday that Rutgers had tabbed former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean for the ceremony.
“I kind of put that statement out there, let people know I was offered to speak there, ’cause a lot of people wanted me to speak there, and they said they were going another direction for political reasons,” LeGrand told Aiello.
At the time, LeGrand wasn’t able to get in touch with (Barchi’s chief of staff) Greg Jackson, who he said offered him the gig on Saturday.
After speaking with Barchi on Tuesday, LeGrand appeared to have taken a new perspective on the situation.
“He really offered a sincere apology. It really sounded like it came from his heart, which is why I believed him, and he offered me to speak to them. He wants to also hand me my degree so I’m very excited, excited about that,” he said.
LeGrand’s No. 52 jersey was retired by Rutgers in September. His story has inspired many, and his road to recovery — leading the school’s football team onto the field, specifically — was chosen as Sports Illustrated’s moment of the year in 2011.
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