250 Years of Rutgers University

The Folk Festival Salutes Rutgers 250


The story of Rutgers University has many chapters, is richly diverse, and is written throughout New Jersey. But it has one beginning, 250 years ago.

On November 10, 1766, the charter establishing Queen’s College was signed, setting the foundation for today’s Rutgers University, with more than 67,000 students attending 31 schools and colleges in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden. On that historic day, William Franklin, the last colonial governor of New Jersey, penned into being one of nine colonial colleges established before the revolution, with the aim of training young men in the ministry of the Dutch Reformed Church.

The New Jersey Folk Festival is marking the 250th anniversary of Rutgers with two special panels at our Seminar Tent on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Most people when they think of Rutgers, they think of the work of professors and students. They think of teaching and learning. What is often overlooked is the everyday work behind the scenes. We decided to honor the workers who take care of our physical plant and the workers who prepare the meals served in our dining halls. We decided to showcase the occupational folklife of these workers at Rutgers. Occupational folklife refers to the work-related stories, the customary practices, skills, and material objects that people use in their professions, as well as the special terms, sayings, jokes, legends, songs, and rituals associated with them. Our initiative was inspired by the highly successful program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival of 1992 that featured the workers at the White House in Washington, D.C.

At that event, butlers, chefs, housekeepers, electricians, ushers, curators, and many more—all members of the permanent White House staff—told tales of triumph, tragedy, and deep devotion to the nation, the presidency, and the First Families while working behind the scenes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The panel explored the dedication, skills, and sacrifices of residence staff whose extraordinary service has helped the White House fulfill its multiple roles as a family residence, seat of government, ceremonial center, historic building, and museum.

In a similar fashion, we will be hosting a panel discussion at 1:00 pm on University Facilities and Capital Planning, the unit at Rutgers responsible for the repair, maintenance, replacement, support services, design and construction of all University buildings, grounds, and infrastructure. This project was organized by Rutgers student and our very own Pinelands Stage Coordinator, Janine Puhak, as an Aresty Research Assistant.

We also will be hosting a panel discussion at 2:00 pm on Rutgers Dining Services, one of the largest student dining operations in the country, operating five student dining facilities serving over 6.7 million meals and several cash facilities serving over 370,000 meals annually. This project was organized by Rutgers student Ben Levy as an Aresty Research Assistant.

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