The keynote speaker at the annual Pi Sigma Alpha induction dinner on Wednesday was 53rd governor of New Jersey, Richard Codey. The political science honor society awarded him an honorary membership and he spoke to students about serving in public office.
Codey shared dinner with political science students and faculty, and following the induction of new members, he delivered a talk open to the general public. Codey discussed his political career and how he was able to run the state and maintain a private life.
"You need, in politics, to lead a very balanced life," Codey said. "You've got to keep that balance and understand that family comes first."
Codey has been a champion of mental health reform for his entire political career. A large part of his two years as governor was spent improving the state of New Jersey's mental hospitals. He asserted that the mentally ill often lack representation because they are such a stigmatized segment of society.
"If I can ever get into a position where I can help these people, I'm going to," he said he promised himself early in life.
Freshman Drashtant Patel said he responded to Codey's work for the mentally ill.
"He made some good points about his connections with the constituents, like those with mental illnesses," he said. "A great point [he made] was the importance of balancing life."
During his tenure, his wife Mary Jo Codey also raised tremendous awareness for postpartum depression after suffering from the condition following the birth of their two sons.
Codey helped make New Jersey a leader in organ donation by sponsoring the N.J. Hero Act and supported the N.J. STARS Program to provide scholarships to top high school seniors. As governor, he raised the state's minimum wage and also signed into law the landmark Indoor Smoke-Free Air Act, which he felt was one of his greatest accomplishments.
"In politics, there's times where you have to stand up and do the right thing," Codey said of his efforts. "When you finish [a political career] and look back and think, 'My family can be proud,' that's the most important thing."
Codey also addressed current New Jersey politics, including the performance of his successor, Gov. Chris Christie.
"It's rare to see a former incumbent talk about a current governor," according to Jeremy Teigen, associate professor of political science.
Provost Beth Barnett, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs in the Center for Student Development Miki Cammarata and Associate Vice Provost for Curriculum and Assessment Eric Daffron were also in attendance.
Codey was very personable and encouraged students to participate in his address by asking questions and having newly inducted members say a few words on what they hope to do with their degree in political science.
The organization presented Codey with an honorary Pi Sigma Alpha membership.
"Concerning my academic career, this may be the highlight," Codey joked.
Additional reporting by Candace Mitchell