Persichilli among 4 inducted into Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli was one of four influential Rutgers University graduates inducted into the university’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni on Thursday night in a ceremony held at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton.

Also inducted Thursday night were public policy leader Richard Roper, aerospace technology and engineering trailblazer Kenneth Johnson and project management and energy industry pioneer Brian Reilly.

Induction to the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni is the highest honor given to Rutgers graduates. Persichilli, who earned a nursing degree from Rutgers in 1976, famously worked alongside Gov. Phil Murphy helping to lead the state’s response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first thing I learned at Rutgers is that nursing is more than a practice. It’s a profession that you can carry with you for a lifetime,” Persichilli said. “I hope that Rutgers students today are getting out of it everything that I have, and that is not only the learning, but the curiosity. If you’re not curious, you don’t innovate. If you don’t innovate, you don’t progress, and that curiosity started with my experience at Rutgers.”

Persichilli was joined by the following inductees:

  • Roper: A 1968 economics graduate from Rutgers–Newark, he had a career as a prominent public policy leader, including directing planning for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;
  • Johnson: A 1966 School of Engineering graduate, he helped lead the development of crucial spaceflight technologies during a 35-year career with companies including RCA, General Electric and Lockheed Martin;
  • Reilly: A 1980 School of Engineering graduate, he led the design and construction of numerous major projects, including nuclear power plants, over the course of more than four decades at Bechtel.

About the Hall

Introduced in 1987, the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni’s first class of inductees included Paul Robeson and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. Since then, more than 200 alumni have been inducted, including five former New Jersey governors, Emmy Award-winning actor Sheryl Lee Ralph and Carli Lloyd, a professional soccer star who led the U.S. team to two Olympic gold medals.

Inductees are selected by the Rutgers University Alumni Association board of directors, which leads the association made up of more than 570,000 Rutgers alumni worldwide.

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway saluted the inductees not only for their stellar accomplishments, but also for supporting many at Rutgers and in their fields.

“We celebrate more than career excellence,” he said. “We celebrate remarkable alumni who build on their accomplishments by creating opportunities for others.”

Rutgers University Foundation President Kimberly Hopely praised the group for their contributions to the state.

“How these four alumni have conducted themselves over the course of their careers speaks volumes,” she said. “From engineering to public policy to leadership in health care, these members of our university community have changed lives, changed our thinking and changed our ideas of what is possible.”