Jon Bon Jovi
CAMDEN, N.J. — Rocker Jon Bon Jovi couldn't resist breaking out a guitar Thursday to help give advice to graduates at Rutgers University's Camden campus.
After all, the ceremony was held at the Susquehanna Bank Center, a concert venue where his band has performed.
The New Jersey native premiered a new song, "Reunion," which he said was a gift to the graduates. It began, "This isn't how the story ends, my friends, it's just a fork along the road."
Rutgers-Camden, a university that takes pride in its civic engagement in a city that ranks as one of the most impoverished in the nation, gave Bon Jovi an honorary doctorate of letters recognizing his entertainment career and a history of philanthropy focused on homelessness and poverty.
He has helped build affordable housing in Philadelphia, a homeless shelter in Camden and founded a Red Bank restaurant that feeds homeless people and others.
Bon Jovi said he decided to take on homelessness when he looked out his window in Philadelphia in 2006 and saw a homeless man on the street below. "I didn't need a scientist to find the cure," he told the graduates. "I needed someone to help me help those in need."
After that, he began working with groups already addressing homelessness.
It wasn't the first time Bon Jovi has received an honorary degree. He was also awarded one in 2001 at New Jersey's Monmouth University.
Another honorary degree went to Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer, professor and author, who told the graduates to get close to people who are struggling and are in poverty if they want to change the world.
He said the United States needs to imprison fewer people for minor crimes and come to grips with its history of slavery and racial injustice.
Bon Jovi was the first to stand to applaud at the end of Stevenson's speech. The rocker told the audience," I feel they may have gotten the opening act and headliner mixed up here today."