NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Tuesday was an historic day at Rutgers University.
The school named its first black president, more than two centuries after the university was established. The Scarlet Knights will now have a former Stanford linebacker as their leader, CBS2’s Tara Jakeway reported.
Starting in July, Jonathan Holloway will be the institution’s 21st president. The 52-year-old current provost at Northwestern was selected unanimously by the board of governors on Tuesday morning. With a handshake and a kiss for his wife, with his two kids by his side, Holloway spoke to the packed room.
“I thought I could get through this … Mom … I got the job,” Holloway said, choking back tears.
Web Extra: Rutgers Appoints First Black President:
Gov. Phil Murphy stopped by to take part in the momentous occasion. Running late, he got there just after the vote for what he called, “the post-game celebration.”
It was a celebration because Murphy said he believes Holloway — a professor of history and African-American studies — has the rare ability to blend academic experience and the real world.
The Rutgers board hopes Holloway will usher in a new era of excellence. However, he did face backlash as dean at Yale University back in 2015 for what some students considered complacency. While racial tensions fueled protests, Holloway remained largely quiet.
Jakeway asked Holloway to address those concerns.
“There will be, I’m certain of it just because of this era we’re living in, moments at Rutgers where people are going to be saying some very uncomfortable, unpleasant and unkind things. That is the cost of being a part of a great university,” Holloway said.
Out of the 250 nominations, Holloway was chosen as the first minority president-designate in the more than 250-year history of the university. Twenty presidents before him have been white males. Making him even more unique, he was a college athlete.
“More has been written about my ‘athletic career’ in the last 40 hours than has ever been written,” Holloway said.
But a humble Holloway admitted he actually only participated in one collegiate play.
“The reason I tell of that story is not to be self-deprecating, because I learned what failure looked like,” Holloway said.
Not failing this year is the Rutgers basketball program. Holloway steps in just as it has made it back into the men’s college poll for the first time since 1979.
Holloway went on to say academics and athletics do often go hand in hand, and having a winning season does promote cohesion on campus.
Rutgers University has more than 70,000 students that attend its three campuses. CBS2 caught up with a couple of them at the New Brunswick campus and asked them what they thought about the new president coming in.
“I think that it’s great and it’s time for the change. We really needed a new face and a different person to represent Rutgers,” junior Abinaya Sivaumar said.
“I’m pretty excited about that … Being black, it kind of helps me out,” sophomore Moses Paul said.
“Football players have incredible leadership roles and I think he’ll transfer his football leadership into the university,” sophomore Robert Herbert said.
Holloway’s official first day will be July 1.