ATLANTIC CITY – Stockton University celebrated another milestone in its expansion in Atlantic City May 3 as President Harvey Kesselman officially cut the ribbon on a new student residence hall in the city’s University District.
“I want you to know how excited we are to finally step inside and tour this amazing new building,” Kesselman said. “Today represents another incredible milestone on this exciting journey.”
The 135,000-square-foot, six-story building located at the corner of Atlantic and South Providence avenues in the Chelsea Heights section is just a short walk from the rest of the campus, which opened in 2018.
In a ceremony shortly before the ribbon-cutting, Stockton’s first residence hall on the Boardwalk was renamed Kesselman Hall. Kesselman is retiring as Stockton’s fifth president on June 30.
The new Phase II complex features apartment- and suite-style living with a total of 416 beds. Most of the suites include four bedrooms, a common area, two bathrooms and a full kitchen. There’s also a lounge on each floor, meeting room, business center and laundry facilities. Students have views of the beach, Boardwalk and O’Donnell Park along with access to a courtyard with outside seating.
“Today marks a significant milestone for our institution as we celebrate the opening of yet another state-of-the-art facility that will provide our students a safe, comfortable and welcoming home away from home,” Stockton Board of Trustees Chairman Raymond Ciccone said.
Kesselman noted the new residence hall continues the “incredible partnership” between Stockton, the City of Atlantic City, Atlantic County, regional and state leaders and the Atlantic City Development Corporation, known as AC Devco.
The president also mentioned the support of New Jersey State Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, who Kesselman said has “been one of Stockton’s staunchest allies in fighting for equity in higher education funding.”
Greenwald talked about how important Stockton has been to diversifying business in the city and transforming it from “a gaming city to a city with gaming.” But Greenwald said he’s most impressed with what residents have told him about Stockton’s presence in Atlantic City.
“They have come forward to say that Stockton has transformed the community,” he said. “It has made it safer. It has increased their property values. It has become a destination point for people. That was part of the vision.”
State Sen. Vincent Polistina echoed Greenwald’s comments and commended Kesselman for seeing the new building’s plans come to fruition.
“It’s important to remember that when Dr. Kesselman took this on, this was a risk. A lot of people said, ‘What are you doing going into Atlantic City?’” Polistina said. “But his foresight, his vision, his dedication, his perseverance led us to where we are today. When you look at the transformation of this part of Atlantic City, it’s unbelievable.”
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, a 1998 Stockton graduate, said Wednesday was “another historic day for my alma mater.”
“Stockton is an important renaissance of the great city of Atlantic City,” he said. “It’s springing a rebirth city wide.”
John Hanson, chairman of AC Devco, commended Kesselman and the university for their partnership and forward thinking.
“Congratulations to all. I’m proud of the work that we were able to do here,” he said.
Ciccone reiterated that the new residence hall is evidence of the university’s commitment to the city.
“This new building is more than just a place to live. It represents our commitment to excellence in all areas of university life,” he said. “It is a space where students will build lifelong friendships, pursue their passions and achieve their dreams. We are proud to offer our students the very best that this new building exemplifies.”
O’Donnell & Naccarato provided structural engineering for both phases of Stockton’s expansion into Atlantic City.
“O&N is honored to partner with AC Devco and architect Thirven Design to help Stockton University expand it already impressive presence in Atlantic City,” O&N President Anthony Naccarato said. “These buildings will ensure that the university is well position to continue attracting the best and brightest minds for many years to come.”
Kesselman Hall dedication
Earlier on Wednesday, Kesselman was “humbled by the extraordinary gesture” on the part of Stockton trustees to officially unveil the new name of the first Atlantic City residence complex as Kesselman Hall.
“Today’s unveiling is not only a personal honor, but also a reflection of the strong partnership between Stockton and Atlantic City,” Kesselman said. “To have my name associated with both is the most beautiful tribute I could ever imagine.”
Ciccone said the decision to name the residence hall is not one to take lightly, but one made after careful consideration and consultation.
“It is an honor traditionally afforded to those who have made significant contributions to the betterment of an organization,” he said. “And I can’t think of anyone who has contributed more to Stockton that President Kesselman.”
“We have been graced by his leadership and the growth and innovation of our university. This beloved community will be Dr. Kesselman’s greatest legacy,” said Mary Lou Galantino, distinguished professor of physical therapy, who suggested the naming of Kesselman Hall.
Kesselman talked about how Atlantic City is very special to him. He spoke about how his parents, who were not highly educated, worked blue-collar jobs and long hours to make ends meet. They would save up just enough money for the family to visit Atlantic City for a few days as a summer vacation.
“We didn’t stay in the extravagant hotels on the Boardwalk, or even near the Boardwalk, but that didn’t matter,” he said. “We came here for the Steel Pier, all of the hucksters and arcades on the Boardwalk, salt-water taffy and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean.”
Kesselman also said he would play the board game Monopoly because his parents wanted to make sure he was familiar with the names of the streets of Atlantic City in case he got lost.
“I can’t help but think how proud my parents would be that in just one generation we went from there to here,” he said. “And the reason that happened is one word — Stockton.”
As a first-generation student, Kesselman said his time at Stockton led him to a career promoting access to higher education and creating opportunities for all students.
“I am the luckiest person in the world to have had the privilege of leading Stockton’s efforts to be an economic driver and a community engaged Anchor Institution in this great city,” he said. “Thank you to my Stockton colleagues, partners, and friends for working together to achieve our collective vision for a growing, vibrant Atlantic City campus.”