NEWARK, N.J. - Jon Bon Jovi is coming back to Camden.
The New Jersey rocker and humanitarian will return to the city May 21 to receive an honorary doctor of letters degree from Rutgers-Camden and deliver a commencement speech. He will be joined by social justice and human rights lawyer Bryan A. Stevenson.
Rutgers' board of governors unanimously approved Bon Jovi, Stevenson, and the commencement speakers for other campuses during a meeting Thursday.
Rutgers' main governing body also signed off on a deal to sell Campbell's Field, home of the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball team, to the Camden County Improvement Authority for $3.5 million.
The move, which awaits formal approval by other stakeholders, comes as the Riversharks' parent company has encountered financial woes.
At their commencement ceremonies on May 17, Rutgers' New Brunswick students will hear from Bill Nye, the children's educator and TV host.
The university also announced the Newark campus' May 18 commencement speaker: Earl Lewis, a historian who heads the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Stevenson founded Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit whose activities include intervening on behalf of those it feels are wrongly charged. He will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. Bon Jovi's humanitarian work has included helping fund Joseph's House, a homeless shelter in Camden.
Best known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, William S. Nye has helped introduce a generation of children to scientific topics, winning seven Emmy Awards over the five seasons of his show, which itself received a total of 18. Nye now heads the Planetary Society, a space-interest group.
Lewis is the author and coeditor of seven books as well as the 11-volume Young Oxford History of African Americans, and is a noted scholar of African American studies.
The Campbell's Field "transaction will allow us to resurrect this waterfront attraction from its extended controversy and put it on a firm foundation for the future," Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd said in a news release.
"Additionally, the agreement will ensure this community asset is well taken care of and will continue to move the city forward."
Two years ago, the Riversharks' parent began struggling to make lease payments on the 6,700-seat stadium to Santander Bank, whose predecessor extended a $9 million loan for its construction.
Other creditors include the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the Delaware River Port Authority.
Rutgers said the Camden County Improvement Authority approached Santander about taking over the property and is also in talks to restructure the EDA and DRPA loans.
The Improvement Authority plans to issue bonds to purchase the property.
Thursday's meeting also saw the board give final approval to the merger of its Camden and Newark law schools.
Creation of the unified Rutgers Law School is contingent on approval from the American Bar Association. Phoebe A. Haddon, the Camden campus chancellor, said that approval was likely this summer
"The faculty and programs of both law schools are excellent, and this will allow us to combine their strengths in a way that is complementary," Haddon said.
Rutgers administrators and faculty have been exploring a merger for years, saying it would expand curricular offerings and raise the programs' profiles.
A merger could also save money, school officials said, citing the example of centralized library costs by reducing overlap in offerings and paying for one journal subscription as one school.
The Camden and Newark campuses will house branches of the law school, maintaining current numbers of 100 faculty members and more than 1,000 students. Both schools are roughly of equal size, which should not change, officials said.
John F.K. Oberdiek, the acting dean of the Camden school, will be co-dean alongside Ronald K. Chen, acting dean of the Newark school.
They will report directly to their campus chancellors.