Eric LeGrand will address commencement at Rutgers University along with former Governor Tom Kean.

Eric LeGrand (Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment )

LeGrand will also receive his degree in labor studies in the school of Arts and Sciences "personally" from Barchi. "Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community. We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion even more memorable," wrote the university president.

Kean and LeGrand will speak in place of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree.  The news of Rice was met with protests by some students and faculty. She withdrew from the ceremony in a statement over the weekend.

 

LeGrand explained to NJ.com  he got a phone  call over  from the  for Rutgers president Robert Barchi's chief of staff Greg Jackson asking him to "do Rutgers a favor and give the commencement speech." The 23-year-old took the call in Florida where he was attending a charity event and left it that he and Jackson would firm up the details on  Monday.

 

He says he got a call from Athletic Director Julie Hermann on Monday breaking the news that Kean would deliver the commencement speech instead. "She told me, 'I was pushing for you, but President Barchi decided to go in another direction for political reasons. But he wants you to come to the ceremony. He wants to personally give you your degree."

 

 

“I’m very upset about it,” LeGrand told MyCentralJersey.com.  “I was all excited all weekend thinking about what I was going to say. It’s rough.” He said he isn't sure if he will attend the ceremony.  “I know that President Barchi wants to hand me my degree but now I’m hesitant. I feel like they offered me, and then changed their mind. I don't know why," he told the newspaper.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) came to LeGrand's defense in asking the university for an explanation.  "Eric LeGrand is an inspiration to the nation and arguably the most respected and visible ambassador for Rutgers.  Eric is the quintessential role model, and a perfect choice to address Rutgers graduates and offer them advice about overcoming life’s challenges.  He deserves an explanation," wrote Sweeney in a press release.

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