ATLANTIC CITY — If enthusiasm determined a person’s life’s span, Ralph Hunter’s 80th birthday celebration Monday would have served as an event honoring him entering into middle age.

Even though the event at the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University honored him, Hunter was busy telling well-wishers about the newest exhibit to open at the museum, “Back from Mother Africa,” an exhibit of African art from the collections of seven people, including himself.

In addition to Hunter’s birthday, the event celebrated the 16th anniversary of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey Inc., which he founded.

Harvey Kesselman, president of Stockton University in Galloway Township, said the museum and Hunter are both intricately important to the resort and the region.

“Ralph’s lifetime work has made all of us far more knowledgeable of the contributions of African Americans in this region and how critically important the African American population has been to the economy and the growth and the success of the great city of Atlantic City,” Kesselman said.

A silent auction raised money for the museum, and awards were given to architect Joseph P. Young and artist Richmond O. Garrick, both of whom donated artwork the museum. A former museum board member, Brian K. Jackson, the chief operating officer of Stockton’s Atlantic City Campus, was honored.

Aaron Pines is an artist, who received a special recognition plaque.

Former U.S. Rep. and Ambassador William J. Hughes also was in attendance. “He’s an amazing man, and what contributions he’s made for the greater good of Atlantic City and the region,” Hughes said. “This exhibit is really a gem — what treasures. He’s done an amazing job in bringing black art to life in our region.”

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Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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