When winter break ends and students and staff return to Stockton University in January, a staple of the Galloway Township campus will be missing. Sharon Schulman, executive director of the college’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, is leaving her post after 10 years.
In her time at Stockton, Schulman has organized and moderated candidate debates for state Legislature, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and, most recently, New Jersey’s gubernatorial primary.
She also established the Hughes Center Honors to recognize civility and leadership in government. This year’s ceremony feted namesake William J. Hughes with a guest appearance from former Vice President Joe Biden.
In the meantime, Schulman has grown the center’s endowment to more than $2 million.
“She’s a dynamo. I wish I had as much energy in any part of my life as she has,” said Ann Harlan, former executive director of the FAA Tech Center and a member of the Hughes Policy Center steering committee in the early 2000s.
Schulman has led the Hughes Center from its infancy in 2008, but that was just one incarnation of the Vineland native’s eclectic career.
“I tend to take on new challenges after I accomplish what I want,” said Schulman, 70, who now lives in Gloucester Township with her husband, Sheldon, 74.
Ever energetic, Schulman’s retirement likely won’t involve much down time, her husband noted.
“My wife’s going to have a lot of problems slowing down in retirement. She has to keep busy and has to have projects,” Sheldon Schulman said. “I have no doubt that once we retire, there will be other opportunities presenting themselves to her.”
After she and Sheldon got married, and three children later — Andrea, Dara and Stephanie — Schulman decided she wanted to finish college. In 1980, she graduated from then-Stockton State College with a degree in biomedical communications and took a job at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. At the same time, Schulman started her own public relations firm in Vineland.
Four years later, she earned her master’s degree in public relations from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University. At the time, she was working as the executive director of the Cumberland Tourist Association in Bridgeton. Then she got a call to work on Ed Salmon’s campaign for state Assembly.
“So I moved on to the next thing,” she said.
Salmon, of Fairfield Township, said Schulman was a very important player in his campaign — so much that when he was appointed to the New Jersey Board of Regulatory Commissioners in 1992, he took Schulman with him to be his chief of staff in Newark.
“She’s just done an amazing job,” Salmon said. “She had a number of very important qualities. She knew how to organize, a terrific writer, she had a propensity for excellence. When she took on a chore, it had to be the best.”
From state government, Schulman took a job in 1994 in the private sector managing public and regulatory planning for Atlantic Electric. While there, she also dabbled in corporate public relations. Her next job came one year later, when she was asked to lead Aqua New Jersey Inc., a water utility in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, as its president and CEO. Schulman served in that role for more than 10 years before Stockton came calling.
“She left a very important, high-paying job in the private sector to run the William Hughes Center for Public Policy, which is probably her first love: politics. Public policy stirs her interest the most,” said Sheldon.
Schulman said when she heard about the position at Stockton, “it felt right.”
“It’s a voice for South Jersey. It’s Stockton, and I’m a graduate,” Schulman said. “How often do you get something like that?”
Harlan said she was impressed immediately by Schulman’s skills.
She said it was Schulman who acquired all of Ambassador Bill Hughes’ memorabilia for the center, as well as an initial $1 million in fundraising “to get everything going.”
“As the founding executive director of the Hughes Center, Sharon has been a visionary leader,” said Stockton President Harvey Kesselman. “Her experience in both business and politics were invaluable in the center’s development.”
Of all of her accomplishments at Stockton, Schulman said she is most proud to leave behind the legacy of creating a voice for South Jersey in public policy.
“I’m feeling really good about creating something here,” she said.
What’s next for Schulman?
“I don’t know. But something meaningful,” she said.