Shortly after former Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand thought he wasn't going to be speaking at Rutgers' graduation May 18 and asked for an explanation why, the school announced that he would be addressing the Class of 2014.
LeGrand, who was paralyzed in a game in 2010, said Monday that he was asked to give the commencement speech on Saturday by the chief of staff to Rutgers President Robert Barchi. However, he was contacted by Julie Hermann, Rutgers' athletic director, earlier Monday and was told he wasn't going to speak.
In a statement Tuesday, Barchi said the situation was a miscommunication and LeGrand will be involved in graduation.
"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 the statement.
"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 even more memorable."
After speaking with Pres. Barchi I will join Gov. Kean speaking at @RutgersU graduating class of 2014. Lets keep the focus on the graduates— Eric LeGrand (@EricLeGrand52) May 6, 2014
The announcement averts a possible long PR nightmare for the university that experienced one in 2013 with the controversy surrounding former basketball coach Mike Rice. Though there never would have been an issue surrounding LeGrand in the first place if the speaking arrangements were clear from the get-go.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was originally scheduled to be the commencement speaker, but she decided not to after her selection became controversial. Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean was announced Monday as Rice's replacement.
"(Hermann) told me, 'I was pushing for you, but President Barchi decided to go in another direction for political reasons. But he wants you to come to the ceremony. He wants to personally give you your degree,' " LeGrand told NJ.com on Monday. "I just didn't know how to feel. I was hurt. They offered me this on Saturday and then they take it back on Monday. I was like, 'Why?' "
Now, both Kean and LeGrand will be speaking instead of one or the other.
"You have no idea how much I’ve been thinking about it,"LeGrand said. "I was thinking all weekend long about what I could share with the students, my experiences. I was going to take them back before when I was getting recruited by Rutgers, what made me come here, and the things I learned here, and, of course, my injury and how great it's been since then."
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