Articles about Monmouth University event
Jon Bon Jovi-MTV
WEST LONG BRANCH, New Jersey — Jon Bon
Jovi might be just another underdog from Jersey, but now he's an underdog from
Jersey with a doctorate in humanities.
The pop-rock singer received the honorary degree and gave the commencement address at Monmouth University on Wednesday (May 16), telling the class of 2001 not to be in awe of students from bigger, better-known schools.
"Every year, there's a new crop of talent making records who want my spot," Bon Jovi told the graduates, who were seated on folding chairs on a lawn behind the university's Woodrow Wilson Hall. "At this very moment, all across the country, thousands of graduates are receiving diplomas, some from schools like Yale, Georgetown and Dartmouth, who may think their piece of paper is more valuable — or their commencement speaker more impressive.
More than 1,000 students graduated from the university near Asbury Park, where Bon Jovi got his start at such Jersey Shore clubs as the Stone Pony and the Fast Lane.
Bon Jovi and his band are enjoying the success of last year's Crush, which has sold more than 2 million copies. Their first live album, One Wild Night (see "Bon Jovi Have One Wild Night"), hits stores next week, and they are in the middle of a tour that ends with two sold-out homecoming shows, July 27 and 28, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.
Bon Jovi, who wore a black graduation gown, also spoke about his movie career, which includes the films "U-571" and "Moonlight and Valentino."
Introducing Bon Jovi — who grew up in Sayreville and lives in nearby Middletown — University trustee Peter Novello said the performer was given the honorary degree because of his success as an entertainer and his humanitarian work. Bon Jovi has worked on behalf of Special Olympics, the American Red Cross, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and other groups.
His speech was well-received — especially the New Jersey references.
"All my friends from high school went to college out of state, and they would give me speeches that I had to get out of state, too," said graduate Nicole Imperial, 23, of Westfield. "I still feel that I'm as good as them!"
After his speech, Bon Jovi, a graduate of Sayreville's War Memorial High School, shook hands or gave high-fives for nearly two hours to graduating seniors as they picked up their diplomas. When all the degrees had been handed out, Bon Jovi ducked into a limo behind the stage and sped off, led by a police escort.
''Not only did they want me to attend the commencement and receive an honorary degree, they asked me to deliver the keynote address,'' Bon Jovi says. ''I've never done anything like this before!''
The New Jersey native son is ''flattered and intrigued by the notion of someone, particularly nurses, calling me Dr. Bon Jovi.''
Bon Jovi is No. 1 hit as graduation orator
Published in the Asbury Park Press 5/17/01
WEST LONG BRANCH -- Just call him Dr. Jon Bon Jovi.
The rock star received an honorary doctor of humanities degree at Monmouth University's 67th commencement and delivered the keynote address urging graduates to follow their passions.
Jon Bon Jovi is center stage at yesterday's Monmouth University commencement, seated between trustee Peter Novello and President Rebecca Stafford. He was awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree.
Bon Jovi was among three recipients of honorary degrees. Thomas E. Daniels, president of Management Business Support Services, was awarded a doctor of public service degree and Lewis M. Eisenberg, chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a doctor of laws degree.
But it was clear Bon Jovi was the star, as students cheered and jumped on stage to get their degrees and shake the musician's hand.
Professor Brian T. Garvey, who received the university's distinguished teacher award early in the program, said jokingly while accepting his honor, "Just think of me as the warm-up act."
Looking into a sea of black robes under a gray sky, Bon Jovi, 39, encouraged graduates to take chances and touched on his difficult transition from music to acting.
"Bon Jovi was not supposed to succeed," he said. "Ask any critic. We weren't from New York. We weren't from L.A. I didn't live the cliche rock 'n' roll lifestyles that legends were made of."
Bon Jovi connected with the graduates when he spoke about venturing out into unknown territory.
Besides his talent, it was his commitment to charitable causes that prompted Monmouth University to honor him.
In 1999, for instance, Bon Jovi opened his home to benefit the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. In 1998 he organized a concert to raise funds for the family of slain Long Branch police Sgt. Patrick King.
This year Bon Jovi was named Humanitarian of the Year by the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Near the close of his speech, Bon Jovi counseled the graduates to make noise and get noticed.
Right after the ceremony, the star darted off into a black Cadillac parked on the university's lawn. Reportedly, he's headed to Canada on part of a world tour.
Catherine Carreta of the Class of 2002 was busy snapping pictures of the singer-actor. "I'm a little jealous; I wish we were graduating now," Carreta said.
She really came out to support sorority sisters who graduated yesterday, but said seeing Bon Jovi was "definitely an added bonus."
Published on May 17, 2001
Bon Jovi, doctorate in hand, invokes pride in his Jersey
Whatever you do in life, "be passionate," was the advice Jon Bon Jovi passed on to the Class of 2001 at Monmouth University's commencement yesterday.
The rock star and actor picked up an honorary doctor of humanities degree -- and the title "Dr. Bon Jovi" -- at the ceremony on the university's Great Lawn in West Long Branch. In his address, the Sayreville native admitted he was an unorthodox choice for a college graduation speaker.
The Middletown resident flew home from a North Carolina concert date to attend the ceremony. The honorary degree is the former John Francis Bongiovi's first college degree. He acknowledges that he barely made it out of Sayreville's War Memorial High School (Class of 1980), preferring playing in bands along the Jersey Shore over schoolwork.
He hit it big with his band Bon Jovi in the mid-1980s, just as most of Monmouth's current graduates were starting kindergarten.
Monmouth officials said they wrote the rock star earlier this year asking if he would accept an honorary degree from the university for both his contributions to music and his charity work. They were slightly surprised when he accepted.
"He was sent a letter by the president of the university," said Frank Di Rocco, a university spokesman. "He indicated that he was intrigued."
The university had hoped to keep Bon Jovi's appearance a secret to surprise the graduates, but word leaked out a few weeks ago. As a result, an overflow crowd of several thousand, including some die-hard Bon Jovi fans without invitations, were sprawled across the university lawn.
With his wife, Dorothea, watching from the audience, Bon Jovi walked in with the 500 graduates to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance." He wore a black graduation robe over dark pants and black cowboy boots, but declined to put the graduation cap over his trademark long locks. He carried the cap instead.
Despite shouted requests from the graduates to hear "Living on a Prayer," Bon Jovi did not sing. Instead, he used his sometimes-humorous 11-minute speech to talk about succeeding in the music business despite critics who said his band would never get a record deal. He also spoke about struggles to be accepted as a movie actor when "it wasn't Hollywood calling, it wasn't even Hoboken."
After his speech, Bon Jovi stuck around to shake the hands of nearly all of the 500 graduates who crossed the stage to pick up their degrees. He was scheduled to fly to Canada for a concert after the ceremony.
Social work major Kerri Russell-Russo of Toms River said it was slightly overwhelming to have one of her childhood heroes at her graduation. She plastered her mortarboard with Bon Jovi stickers.
Russell-Russo, 30, said she had been a Bon Jovi fan "since I was 17 and I went to see him in my red spandex and big hair."
Fellow social work major Sabrina D'Agostino, 24, of Wanaque said it was also ironic that a singer her mother forbade her to listen to as a child would end up speaking at her college graduation.
"Who knew?" said D'Agostino.