A Look Back at 2022 – News – Stockton University

Galloway, N.J. – As we close out 2022, we reflect on a year of celebrations, milestones and expansion at Stockton. Join us in  counting down the days to 2023 by viewing highlights from the past 12 months.
Stockton continued its celebration of the 50th anniversary of teaching with a return to Atlantic City’s Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for Commencement, just down the street from the site of the former Mayflower Hotel, where 50 years ago the first 1,000 students arrived to begin classes at the new Stockton State College. The Class of 2022 had more than 2,700 graduates earning bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees.
Other 50th Anniversary activities included the unveiling of the “50th in Flight” exhibit in March in the Campus Center. The 30×16-foot mural is composed of almost 1,000 photos showing the history of the university over its first 50 years.
In April, the university orchestrated a massive Community Day Cleanup throughout Atlantic City, culminating in a Party in the Park in O’Donnell Park. More than 1,000 people supported the event, which will return 2023.
Stockton joined the list of elite Top 100 Public National Universities, ranking 91st in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report College Rankings. “We have kept our promise to make a Stockton degree more valuable each and every day,” President Harvey Kesselman said. He cited the Stockton Promise and Garden State Guarantee initiatives that provide free tuition and fees to lower-income students, and enhanced student services programs that provide opportunities outside of the classroom, including internships, research and travel.
These initiatives led to a 54% jump in applications and 16% increase in new student enrollment this fall, making it one of Stockton’s largest first-year student classes ever. The fall 2022 entering class is also the most diverse in Stockton’s history at 46%, with more than 700 first-year students identifying as minority or mixed race. This increases the overall minority representation in the student population to 40%.
Additionally, Stockton ranked 7th in the nation among public colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates for Hispanic students and overall minority students according to a 2022 report by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
President Kesselman announced in July he will retire from the role June 30, 2023. President Kesselman is as unique as the history of Stockton. A member of the first class at then Stockton State College in 1971, he continued on to become a faculty member, and has held several administrative positions, including provost and executive vice president. He began serving as acting president in April 2015 and was named president later that year.
His career parallels the institution’s growth, from a small college in the Pinelands National Reserve to a world-class university. Stockton has thrived under his leadership. He shepherded the university through its expansion to Atlantic City and successfully championed equitable funding for public colleges and universities in New Jersey.
In September, the university unveiled and installed his portrait outside of the Michael Jacobson Board of Trustees Room alongside portraits of the four previous presidents.
March Madness infected the university this year as the men’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 after hosting first- and second-round NCAA Division III Tournament games at the Sports Center. The Ospreys (26-5) reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
The team’s 26 wins tied the 1995-96 squad for the second-highest total in the program’s 50 seasons. The Ospreys won their 10th New Jersey Athletic Conference title. The team was led by junior DJ Campbell, the NJAC Player of the Year, and junior Kyion Flanders, the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Scott Bittner was also named the NJAC Coach of the Year.
To support the athletics program, the university embarked on a $2 million renovation of its facilities – installing a new artificial turf field for the field hockey and lacrosse teams and a new track and grass soccer field this fall. An expansion of the Sports Center will begin in 2023.
We are grateful for our Osprey family who continues to support the scholarship initiatives of the Stockton Foundation.
The annual Ospreys Give event broke records with a whopping $150,000 from 915 donors spanning all 50 years of Stockton’s history. Another Stockton staple, the Scholarship Benefit Gala returned in person for the first time since 2019, raising $425,000 for Foundation Scholarships.
Generous members of the community, including our own faculty, endowed scholarships for students of all majors. Some memorialized their loved ones while others strove to create a legacy that will last for years to come. One of those legacies includes the Dean C. and Zoe S. Pappas Visiting Scholar Endowment Fund, which was previously established in memory of the former Board of Trustee member. Through the Pappas Endowment Fund, students met and listened to author and playwright Lynn Nottage in an experience that served as a part of the series and freshman convocation this fall.
Stockton has always been a part of Atlantic City’s vast fabric, and our presence is only expanding. Four years after the opening of the Atlantic City campus, the next phase of the residential complex is almost complete. The university marked the milestone on July 19 with a Topping Off ceremony.
Stockton students and local artists collaborated on two murals in the city in preparation for the NAACP Convention. The murals highlight Black political and social leaders, including former Stockton President Vera King Farris and Juanita High, a member of the Stockton Foundation.
Two new programs provided more opportunities for students to explore Atlantic City: the Stockton – Atlantic City Summer Experience, which allowed 130 students to work in local businesses while living on the campus and earning four free credits in a career readiness course, and the Community Reporting Innovation Lab, where students will have mentorship opportunities and gain newsroom experience through a partnership with The Press of Atlantic City.
It didn’t take long for Stockton to have a direct impact on the southern Ocean County community when its Manahawkin location opened 10 years ago. Just a few weeks after opening its doors the instructional site faced its first major challenge to “meet students where they live” — Superstorm Sandy. During the recovery from the storm, Stockton became a source of hope and support for many and developed a bond with residents that continues today.
The location holds several community engagement programs through the Stockton Center of Successful Aging and the Stockton Institute for Lifelong Learning that appeal to the area’s sizable senior citizen population. It’s also the home of the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, where, in 15 months, students who already have a bachelor’s degree can get an additional bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Also marking a decade of service in 2022 was the Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. The center’s role is to build bridges with the community surrounding Stockton and promote the ideals of public service and social responsibility to students. The center now has partnerships with about 300 groups in South Jersey and has created several community programs, such as naturalization classes and after-school homework programs in Pleasantville and Atlantic City.
Stockton’s Rocket League team finished second in the world at the Collegiate Rocket League World Championship Tournament in Dallas in June. The event, the first collegiate international finals, was part of the DreamHack gaming festival and attracted more than a million viewers in person and online.
It was the culmination of a stellar season for the Rocket League team, which won the national Eastern College Athletic Conference Hudson Valley Gamer Con in March and the 2022 Mid-Atlantic Rocket League online qualifier in April. The team included captain Brian Busse, of Hazlet, Trey Batson, of Manahawkin, and John Merendino, of Hauppauge, New York.
The Esports Innovation Center at Stockton, located on the Atlantic City Boardwalk as part of the university’s Residential Complex, opened in October during the first Casino Esports Conference on the East Coast. The center is a nonprofit set up in partnership with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and Stockton to promote esports in New Jersey and Atlantic City.
The Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center launched its Holocaust Survivors of South Jersey Digital Archive and Website in September. The project, which associate professor of History Michael Hayse and several students started in 2019, includes more than 1,500 names of survivors who lived in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties. It has two main components — a digital archive that will reside at the center and a website featuring individual profiles of some survivors.
The digital archive contains documents, copies of memoirs and ancestry information that researchers and Holocaust survivors’ family members can search and access. The website is a searchable database featuring profiles of survivors. Both the archive and the website will be updated as new survivor profiles are completed.
Students helped install a new 17-inch PlaneWave CDK17 telescope in the Harold E. Taylor Observatory this summer and unveiled it to the public in October. An anonymous donor contributed half the cost of the $50,000 telescope, which dramatically improves the viewing experience of the night sky for students, faculty and members of the public.
Physics professor Joe Trout hopes to raise an additional $20,000 to purchase a new camera for the telescope. The observatory is open Thursday nights for public viewings.
The year began with Stockton University earning two honors: Silver Military Friendly and Military Spouse-Friendly designations, both of which demonstrate the university’s commitment to active and veteran Armed Forces members and their families.
This spring, Stockton honored veteran students with a coining ceremony. Fifty-two senior students were eligible for the Stockton vetcoin, which symbolizes their unit identity and espirit de corps. Later, nine veteran and service-member students spent 11 days in Greece on a study-abroad trip. They learned about ancient Greek soldiers, toured cities such as the Acropolis and visited various museums.
A weeklong celebration marked Veterans Day, including a ruck march around Lake Fred and a ceremony in the Campus Center Grand Hall. The new Faces of Stockton’s Military Community Photography Project involved 31 students, staff and faculty and covered almost every branch of the Armed Forces.
This year marked the return of the biennial performance of George Frederic Handel’s Christmas portion of “Messiah: An Oratorio.” The last performance was shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. Handel’s “Messiah” is led by Beverly Vaughn, professor of Music, and included nearly 200 singers from both Stockton University and members of the community. “Messiah” took the stage in Borgata’s Event Center in Atlantic City in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 and was dedicated to the retiring President and First Lady of Stockton, Harvey and Lynne Kesselman.
-Story by Stacey Clapp, Mark Melhorn and Loukaia Taylor
-Photos by Susan Allen and Stockton staff
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