Richard Stockton College is taking the first steps to possibly becoming Richard Stockton University.
The proposed name change reflects not only the new programs and buildings that have transformed the campus over the past decade, but the plans still to come. Spearheading that change has been President Herman J. Saatkamp Jr., who has cultivated the small college in the pines and spread its seeds throughout South Jersey.
At a board of trustees meeting Feb. 19, Saatkamp, in response to a report by the Faculty Senate, said he would convene a community task force to review the potential impact and benefits of becoming a university. The suggestion was made when evaluators doing the college’s 2012 Middle States re-accreditation asked whether, given its growth, officials had considered re-classifying.
“But it’s more than just changing the name,” Saatkamp said. “It’s about what it represents to be a university.”
Saatkamp has entered his second decade as president of Richard Stockton College and has no immediate plans to retire, though he does admit, at age 71, another full decade might be a stretch. In a 2011 interview, he said a college president’s most productive period is years six through 10, when the plans they make come to fruition. For Stockton, that included a new campus center, science building and satellite sites in Atlantic City, Woodbine, Manahawkin and Hammonton.
Still on the drawing board are an expansion to the new science building, another academic building, a possible campus in Atlantic City and the future of the Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, which would bring a new research component to the school.
Board member Michael Jacobson, who chaired the board when Saatkamp was hired, said trustees sought an entrepreneurial president who would take Stockton to the next level, and Saatkamp has more than done so. But there are still fiscal and space challenges for the future as Stockton maxes out its allowed developable land in the Pinelands and seeks to expand while controlling tuition costs.
“I really don’t know for sure where we will go,” Jacobson said. “But the college is crucial to the economy of South Jersey.”
Saatkamp is adamant that his tenure not be defined by buildings but by people, programs and their impact on the community. He is proud that the first project students undertake every September is a Day of Service, going into the community to help others. He is optimistic about the future of the tech park, and said he expects to announce partnerships and plans for the first building by summer.
“I think that will escalate in a significant way,” he said, acknowledging the problems and delays that have kept the former NextGen park stagnant for years.
Assets for the College Foundation were less than $3 million when Saatkamp was hired but were at more than $27 million as of Dec. 31, according to an unaudited financial report. He views the growth as thousands of people investing in Stockton’s future and the future of its students.
“I think in terms of generations,” he said.
Some of those “investors” have also committed their names to programs at Stockton, something, they said, they did with high expectations that are being met.
Former U.S. Rep. and Ambassador William J. Hughes said it is a pleasure and an honor for him to be associated with Stockton through the Public Policy Center that bears his name. He has taught at the college and said he and his family are committed to its future.
“It is one of the greatest resources we have in South Jersey,” he said.
Lloyd Levenson brought the idea of a gaming and tourism institute to Saatkamp after being annoyed that the only gaming experts he ever saw quoted were at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism already has an international reputation, he said, thanks to the expertise of people at Stockton.
“I had no interest in just having something named after me,” Levenson said. “I wanted something that would give value to Stockton and to the tourism and gaming industries. I had confidence that Herman would support it in a meaningful way.”
Saatkamp said he would like to be known as someone who can get things done, but in a collaborative way that involves all parties. He recognizes that the decisions he makes today will affect the college long after he is gone, and he doesn’t want to make mistakes others will pay for. It is why he will jump at the chance to create a campus in Atlantic City, but only if the circumstances are right.
“I have to be convinced that what we do there is financially feasible and can last,” he said. “But I love helping a city come alive.”
Contact Diane D’Amico: