Neil deGrasse Tyson leaves ’em laughing — and thinking — during Kean commencement address

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is best known for two things:

  1. Simplifying difficult scientific concepts, often with humor;
  2. Knocking Pluto off the list of planets.

He didn’t disappoint Thursday during his commencement address at Kean University.

“I want to create a world where, if aliens came to visit, they wouldn’t look around and run back home and say, ‘There’s no sign of intelligent life on Earth,’” Tyson said. “Rise up to this challenge. Make decisions in the interest of our health, our wealth, our security, so subsequent generations can look back on you, on us, and be proud of the decisions we have made.”

Kean, a rising force in higher education in the state, awarded more than 2,800 bachelor’s degrees.

Tyson set the tone of the ceremony with a message for the graduates on the importance of lifelong learning, playing off the school’s motto.

“You want to climb higher? Be ready to do some climbing after you get out,” he said.

Kean President Lamont Repollet couldn’t agree more.

Repollet, who — like many of the graduates — started at the school during the pandemic in 2020, said the class always will hold a special place in his heart.

“Graduates, your stories inspire us all, reminding us of the power of education,” he said. “As you go forth today, know that you carry more than a degree. You are empowered by the capacity to inspire change, the potential to lead and the responsibility to contribute meaningfully to your communities.”

DeGrasse Tyson received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his remarkable contributions to the field of astrophysics.

The scientist, known for high-profile television appearances, including “PBS Nova,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Simpsons,” showed his depth of knowledge by sprinkling his speech with references ranging from Apollo astronauts to rock star Alice Cooper.

There was, however, no word on Pluto’s status.