Stockton gala

After surpassing its $20 million goal for 2014 by last year's gala, the theme for this year's gala was 'Let's Do More.' Saturday night's gala was expected to raise $500,000.

Sean M. Fitzgerald

When you reach a goal early, the only thing to do is ... set another one.

The Stockton Foundation surpassed its $20 million goal for 2014 by last year's annual scholarship gala. So, the theme of this year's dinner was "Let's Do More," with a new goal of raising $2 million by the original deadline.

"We're trying to do more for our students, more with our scholarships," Stockton President Herman Saatkamp said.

Students, alumni and leaders attended the gala at Revel on Saturday night, with a pose with the Osprey - Stockton College's mascot - nearly a prerequisite before entering the event, where the surprise musical guest was 1970s and '80s rocker Eddie Money, courtesy of the casino.

"Revel set it all up," said Dr. Philip Ellmore, chief development officer for the foundation.

But the "Take Me Home Tonight" singer's surname did fit with the focus of the night.

The "Do More" campaign already has raised about $950,000 toward its new goal, Ellmore said.

Saturday night's gala was expected to raise about a half-million dollars, although some of that would go toward expenses.

"The more scholarships we have, the less students have to worry about repaying loans," Saatkamp said.

When he came to Stockton 10 years ago, Saatkamp said students received about $300,000 in scholarships. This year, that number was $13 million.

Not all of that is from the foundation, Ellmore noted. But the group's assets have increased in that decade from $3 million to more than $25 million.

Emily Heerema was one of about 20 scholarship recipients who took part in the program Saturday.

“The day I started graduate school, my mother (Patricia) was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Heerema, a candidate for a master’s in science degree in occupational therapy. “Throughout all this, she has inspired me to keep going. She’s been fighting and is now recovered. Because of the scholarship donors, I am able to continue with graduate school and to become an occupational therapist.”

She brought her mother to Saturday’s gala.

The night was also a learning one for some of Stockton's students.

Attendees were greeted by members of Michael Scales' Event Planning and Catering Management class.

The 32 students are required to attend the gala as part of their training, but some also are scholarship recipients, Scales said.

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