The Reverend DeForest Soaries Jr. — an influential pastor, New Jersey’s first black secretary of state, and a force in central New Jersey activism in a variety of fields — will deliver the Saint Peter’s University commencement address on May 26. may.
Soaries, pastor emeritus of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Franklin Township near New Brunswick after 30 years at the helm of the church, served as Secretary of State from 1999 to 2002 under Governor Christine Whitman.
In addition to her long legacy at the church, Soaries has taken on many other causes, from financial education to foster families.
He is currently CEO and Founder of Corporate Community Connections, Inc., a company providing financial education focused on debt management.
Soaries founded the nonprofit Central Jersey Community Development Corporation in 1992; the group made headlines in 2009 for buying $25 million worth of bad debt and bank-owned homes with money raised from private investors.
He also started Harvest of Hope Family Services Network in 1996, which started as a temporary foster care organization before also becoming a licensed adoption agency.
University President Eugene Cornacchia said Soaries will provide a perspective from the field of “faith-based community development,” which “reflects the values that have been promoted for 150 years through a Jesuit and Catholic education of St. -Rock”.
The start will be at 11 a.m. at the PNC Bank Arts Center.