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Rutgers University renames center after late New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver

N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver honored with Rutgers University center renaming
N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver honored with Rutgers University center renaming 02:26

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey's late lieutenant governor, Sheila Y. Oliver, died seven months ago.

She was the first Black woman to hold statewide office.

Friday, her family, friends and fellow political leaders gathered at Rutgers University for the naming of a center in her name.

"She was a dear friend, mentor and role model," New Jersey Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way said.

The current lieutenant governor was among those at Rutgers as the school named the Center for Politics and Race in America after Oliver, who died in August at the age of 71.

"For her, 'stronger and fairer' wasn't a slogan, it was the north star," Way said.

Oliver's words the night she and Gov. Phil Murphy won also played at the ceremony.

That night, Oliver told supporters, "I hope somewhere in this great state of New Jersey, a young girl of color is watching tonight."

"If you knew my aunt, you knew one of her main mantras was, 'Each one teach one,'" Oliver's niece Renee Oliver said. "This is how we keep her legacy alive and empower future generations to carry on her work."

Her family says naming the center dedicated to national and state data on race and politics with a focus on Jersey is a tribute to who Oliver was.

"We are still reeling in the loss, but it is through these honorings that we are able to continue to keep her legacy alive," Renee Oliver said. "She would be immensely proud. I believe that she would also think about our ancestors, and how they couldn't even imagine having a school named after them."

The center will also offer scholarships funded by Johnson & Johnson to future leaders.

Student Safanya Searcy says she'll apply.

"She is with us in spirit, and she's certainly going to be with me as I continue everything I can to make good trouble," she said.

Friends and fellow lawmakers say Oliver stood up against injustice.

"She would be the only one to say, 'Hold up, this isn't right,'" Sen. Teresa Ruiz said.

"She's up there. She's saying, 'Yes, that's right, yes.' She's happy," said Oliver's sister-in-law Sylvia Oliver.

"She's here with us today, smiling with pride and joy," Renee Oliver said.

The co-director says the center was established last year with state funding.

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