Princeton University has awarded Connie Mercer, founder and CEO of HomeFront, an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters in recognition of her three decades of compassionate dedication to providing shelter, support and hope to those in need.
Mercer was one of six distinguished New Jersey residents who were awarded honorary degrees from Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber during commencement exercises on May 12.
The university noted Mercer’s tireless work on behalf of central New Jersey’s homeless, calling Homefront’s Family Campus in Ewing “a testament to what passionate leadership and selfless determination can achieve.”
“As the founder and chief executive officer of HomeFront, she has mobilized a small army of staff, volunteers and donors with the goal of empowering families to ‘break the cycle of poverty’ by overcoming the interlocking obstacles to self-sufficiency — from prohibitive housing costs to inadequate childcare, to underdeveloped life skills,” the university announcement stated.
An encounter with a mother and three children in a squalid Route 1 motel room in 1991 inspired Mercer’s mission to provide shelter and support to homeless families. What began as a group of volunteers delivering food and water to families living in motel rooms has grown under Mercer’s leadership to become one of the leading nonprofit social services agencies in central New Jersey.
Today, HomeFront offers housing assistance, education, life skills, employment training, childcare and more for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so. The Family Campus in Ewing provides temporary shelter, transitional and permanent housing to more than 450 people a night, two-thirds of them children.
Ruth Scott, who leads HomeFront’s board of trustees, said the organization was proud that Mercer had been singled out by the university as someone whose service had made a lasting contribution in this world.
“I am delighted that Connie’s work founding and building HomeFront has been held up as an example of what the Princeton University Class of 2021 should strive to accomplish with their lives’ work,” Scott said.
In addition to Mercer, five other New Jerseyans received honorary degrees from Princeton University for their contributions to music, history, education, literature, public service, public health, and social justice:
- Jon Bon Jovi, Doctor of Music
- Linda Caldwell Epps, Doctor of Humanities
- John V. Fleming, Doctor of Humane Letters
- Rush Holt, Doctor of Laws
- Risa Juanita Lavizzo-Mourey, Doctor of Science
To learn more about the accomplishments of all of those awarded honorary degrees at Princeton University’s 274th commencement, go here.