ATLANTIC CITY - The Richard Stockton College Foundation was expected to draw more than 800 people to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa Saturday night to benefit its scholarship fund, which helps more than 200 students pay for school each year.

"Tonight's all about scholarships," foundation chief development officer and President Philip Ellmore said Saturday as the 31st annual event got under way.

Judges, attorneys, casino executives, elected officials and others paid $225 per ticket and bid on items in a silent auction that will pay for foundation scholarships that totaled nearly $200,000 during the 2009-10 school year, the foundation's financial disclosure forms show.

The college gives out about $9 million a year through its numerous financial assistance programs. The foundation offers the grants to any undergraduate or graduate student at Stockton with a 3.0 minimum grade point average who demonstrates leadership through activities on campus or the surrounding community, its website shows.

Buttressed by a golf outing and a few other events held throughout the year, the gala is the main fundraiser for the foundation, college spokesman Tim Kelly said.

The recession cost the foundation more than $1 million in investment income during 2009, but grants and contributions never stopped growing, reaching a peak of $2.1 million during the 2010 fiscal year, when other revenue sources also started to rebound, allowing the nonprofit to put more money into fundraising, documents show.

The foundation, which has relied mainly on local philanthropists, sought to draw donations from additional sources during the past year. In February 2010, Annual Fund Coordinator Chad Adams was hired with that as his primary responsibility.

"Calling and sending out letters, that really wasn't done (consistently) before. And you have to get students into the habit while they're still here," said Adams, who is a Stockton alumnus. "So we're kind of playing catchup to other (colleges)."

Started in 1972, the foundation also supports the Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies and other initiatives at Stockton, its website shows.

The school's campus is in Galloway Township, five miles west of the Seaview resort. Stockton took over the financially troubled, century-old compound last year and is developing a cooperative, hands-on hospitality education program there. The college completed a $12 million renovation project during the past winter. The grand re-opening of the complex was held in March, seven months after Stockton finalized the $20 million sales deal.

Stockton also has a satellite location at the Carnegie Library Center in Atlantic City and will open another in Hammonton in September 2012.

Contact Emily Previti:

609-272-7221