NEW YORK Two days after former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of delivering this year's commencement address at New Jersey's Rutgers University, the school said on Monday that former state Governor Thomas Kean would speak in her place.
The selection of Rice, who was a key U.S. foreign policy adviser to President George W. Bush and a leading hawk in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, prompted protests by students and faculty.
In a statement on Saturday, Rice defended her record and said her participation in the festivities had become a "distraction" after months of protests over her role in the Iraq war.
The commencement will be held on May 18.
Kean, a Republican, served as New Jersey governor from 1982 until 1990. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Kean was named co-chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, known as the "9/11 Commission."
"Gov. Kean's career as a public servant, educator and statesman speaks to the civility, integrity and vision that we hope will guide our graduates as they pursue their careers or further their studies," Rutgers President Robert Barchi said in a statement.
(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)