“Richly Deserving” Class of 2015 Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

The evening honored beloved New Jersey icons such as Derek Jeter and Jon Stewart.

The 2015 Class of New Jersey Hall of Famers and their representatives.
The 2015 Class of New Jersey Hall of Famers and their representatives.
Photo by Gary Gellman/Gellman Images

The scene at the induction ceremony for the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 on April 7 had all the glitz and glam watchers of televised Oscars preshows have become accustomed to: the red carpet; the honorees sashaying through the Asbury Park Convention Hall (where the festivities took place); the local paparazzi shouting for attention; the photo opps in front of a backdrop of corporate logos.

For reporters lined up behind a velvet rope, though, the pomp was accompanied by a different kind of circumstance: The could not recognize many of the new Hall of Famers.

The New Jersey Hall of Fame was established in 2008. Categories for inclusion are arts and letters, sports, enterprise, public service and performing arts. Which means that some luminaries, like Newark-bred Bernard Marcus, the Home Depot co-founder and philanthropist who was inducted last night (enterprise), aren’t as recognizable as previous honorees, like Bruce Springsteen, who was in the inaugural class (performing arts).

That is not to suggest, though, that the non-celebrity inductees are not worth fawning over, or that the 15 New Jersey Hall of Fame commissioners who work with the public to vote in each year’s new inductees have to dig deep to find bold-face names.

Derek Jeter, who was born in Pequannock and spent a portion of his childhood in New Jersey, was inducted last night, during a ceremony that was hosted by Joe Piscopo and included music by Glen Burtnik and his 15-piece Hall of Fame Orchestra. So was Lawrenceville’s Jon Stewart. The who-is-that factor cropped up mainly because neither was in attendance–though Stewart graciously accepted in a prerecorded video.  Also not in attendance? Author James Fenimore Cooper, who died in 1851, and two other posthumous honorees.

Those on hand for induction included Jersey City-bred soul band Kool & the Gang; Vietnam War hero Jack H. Jacobs; and U.S. women’s national soccer team captain Christine Rampone. Senator Cory Booker was not an inductee – the honor is not available to sitting politicians – but he attended the event to induct the late Camden-born businessman and philanthropist Lewis Katz, one-time owner of the Nets and Devils.

The Hall of Fame honchos may care a little or not at all about how bright the wattage is at on induction night. Piscopo certainly didn’t. As he told the Convention Hall crowd—after singing a rendition of Hall of Famer Sinatra’s “New York, New York” replaced with the initials “N.J., N.J.” and including a line about a glorious state where the diners do not close—“some of these inductees you know well, and others you may not know so much. But all are richly deserving.”

Here are the 2015 NJ Hall of Fame inductees:

James Fenimore Cooper (arts and letters)
William Fox (enterprise)
Carla Harris (unsung hero)
Jack H. Jacobs (public service)
Derek Jeter (sports)
Lewis Katz (enterprise)
Kool & the Gang (performing arts)
Frank Lautenberg (public service)
Bernard Marcus (enterprise)
Anna Quindlen (arts and letters)
Christie Rampone (sports)
Jon Stewart (performing arts)
Dick Vitale (sports)

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