Public 4-Year Schools

Stockton University Hosts Joe Biden at Event Honoring Ambassador William J. Hughes

U.S. Ambassador William J. Hughes and former Vice President Joe Biden

At an awards program dedicated to civility in government, presenters and honorees Thursday evening bemoaned the lack of civility in government today and the need to restore the integrity the honorees represent.

“When Bill (Hughes) sat down with you, he listened,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in presenting the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award to U.S. Ambassador William J. Hughes at the Hughes Center Honors program at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club. “He reached agreement and moved the process along. It is only through consensus that the United States can continue to function.”

Biden and Hughes worked together in Congress when Hughes was in the House of Representatives and Biden was in the Senate. They became friends riding the Amtrak train to Washington, D.C. together, talking about not just policy, but family.

“Those hours were precious because we got to know each other,” Biden said. “Back in our day people (in Congress) knew each other and respected each other.”

“That invisible moral fabric that holds this country up is something you’ve always known,” he told Hughes.

In accepting the award, Hughes said it was Biden’s pledge to clean up the Brandywine Creek in Delaware that inspired him to run for office to clean up the ocean. The two also worked together on many crime bills that addressed such issues as the sale of armor-piercing bullets and assault rifles.

“I view my 50 years of success as a labor of love,” Hughes said. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve my community and my country. I’ve loved every bit of it. A willingness to compromise made it possible to create good public policy.”

N.J. Senate President Steve Sweeney, who presented awards to state Sen. Diane Allen and Kathy Whelan, the widow of the late Sen. Jim Whelan, who died in August.

“He was so excited to be getting this,” Kathy Whelan said. “Stockton was very important to him. We enjoyed looking out the window and seeing the dorms go up (on the new campus) in Atlantic City.”

Sweeney continued the theme of civility, cited Whelan’s class, dignity and humor and Allen’s willingness to work together even though she is a Republican and he is a Democrat.

“It is bittersweet for me to lose Diane (who is retiring),” he said. “We are losing someone we could work with, someone who cares about the people.”

Allen said government is broken right now, but can improve.

“It is important that you know there are still those who will work together,” she told the audience of more than 500 people. “Civility is something we must work for.”

Honoree and Stockton alumna Brigid Callahan Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, and political commentator, continued the theme of civility.

“In an era when we are encouraged to hate, it is so very important to honor legislators who are willing to reach across the aisle,” she said.

U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman said she is thankful for the opportunity to let her voice be heard.

“I try to get to know my Republican colleagues,” she said. “Hyper-partisanship is destroying our country. We are better than what we are experiencing now.”

The youngest honoree, 2017 Stockton graduate Maryam Sarhan, said she has been inspired by Stockton and her parents, who made the one-way trip from Egypt to America 16 years ago. She said Stockton President Harvey Kesselman has been a mentor who sets an example by passionately advocating for causes he holds dear.

“I will always cherish my time at Stockton,” said Sarhan, who was Student Senate president and a student trustee. “I hope to continue with opportunities for public service.”

Kesselman also thanked Sharon Schulman, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton, for her success and service to the center. She is retiring in January.

“Sharon has been a visionary for the center,” Kesselman said, citing not only the programs the center has sponsored, but the funds Schulman has raised to support those programs.

The Hughes Center Honors are awarded for professional excellence and a commitment to public service, civility and bipartisanship which reflect the life and career of Ambassador Hughes, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Panama and as a U.S. Congressman for 20 years.

For more information visit the Hughes Center website at:

From left, Stockton University Dean of Students Pedro Santana, Student Veterans Organization President Frank Attwood, President Harvey Kesselman, N.J. Order of the Purple Heart Commander Joseph M. Belardo and Senior Vice Commander Norman Glover and Director of the Stockton Office of Military and Veteran Affairs Jason Babin at the Veterans Day program

Stockton Receives “Purple Heart” Designation; Alumnus Starts New Military Relief Fund

_ Stockton University received two honors at its annual Veterans Day celebration Friday, one that recognized its services for veterans, and one from a veteran who had been the recipient of those services.

“You made me feel like I matter” said James F. Ryan, 55, of Mays Landing, a 2015 graduate of Stockton with a degree in social work who is now working with veterans.

Ryan presented a check for $1,850, the first installment of the James F. Ryan III Military Relief Fund that will provide scholarships and a revolving grant and loan fund to help veterans with costs ranging from books to car repairs or rent if they are struggling.

Stockton was also recognized by the New Jersey Order of the Purple Heart for its level of veteran services. New Jersey Commander Joseph Belardo and Senior Vice Commander Norman Glover presented a flag, a welcome sign and Purple Heart coins to University officials.

Belardo said the group is working to recognize colleges and universities, towns, and counties that exemplify service to veterans and show genuine concern. Stockton is the third university to receive the designation.

“Veterans need guidance, understanding, support and a friendly environment,” Belardo said. “You meet and exceed our requirements.”

Stockton president Harvey Kesselman said many of Stockton’s founding members and students in the early 1970s were Vietnam veterans.

“They helped establish the Stockton we know,” he said.

Kesselman extended the Stockton community’s gratitude to all veterans.

“Some served in wars long ago, and some just returned yesterday,” he said. “We are deeply indebted to you.”

Ryan said Stockton helped him when he was a struggling student veteran recovering from a car accident and surgery and he wants to show his Osprey Pride by giving back. He served in the Marines for more than 16 years, owns a car cleaning business. He is currently studying towards advanced  degrees in military social work and social work management and policy. He has an internship with the Department of Veterans Affairs and will begin working for them in May 2018.

“My sole priority is to work with veterans,” he said. “They need my time.”

He said his goal is to raise $25,000 in 12 years for scholarships as well as the loan fund.

“I’m excited and ready to do this,” he said.

Student veteran Caleb Taylor, who served as a rifleman in Afghanistan, said veterans have a responsibility to “our country, our families and ourselves.”

“May you never stop striving to be the best you can be,” he said. “Make the world around you better, and never forget the fallen.”

Stockton’s Assistant Director for Counseling Services, Karen Matsinger, who works with student veterans, called them “mirrors that reflect who we are as Americans.” She said they come from diverse backgrounds and have very different experiences, and she feels privileged to get to know them, share their lives, and help them.

“They are the best reflection of who we are as a people,” she said.

Stockton’s Director of Military and Veterans Services Jason Babin also presented plaques of appreciation to several people who have worked for and with Stockton to help veterans. They are: Student veterans advocate and VFW Memorial Post 9462 Quartermaster Robert Ford, Stockton alumna and Army National Guard member Jessica Layton, Stockton employee Jenifer Robin, and N.J. Order of the Purple Heart Commander Joseph Belardo.