Stockton University interim President Harvey Kesselman says he is pleased Gov. Chris Christie has opted to keep experienced trustees on the university board, as well as add some new members.
“They are all first-rate people,” he said. “The board is extremely engaged now, and it will be good to have a mix of experienced and new members.”
On Thursday, the Governor’s Office announced nominations for nine people to the board of trustees. Five are re-appointments whose terms had expired, three are new, and one is a former board member who resigned after the controversial purchase of the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City in December. All must still be approved by the Senate.
On Friday, one nominee, Barbara Morvay, said while she is very honored to be asked to return, she would decline the nomination. Morvay had questioned the Showboat purchase, then resigned. She said her move to Florida makes it too difficult to give full attention to the job.
“Right now the board needs a tremendous dedicated effort,” she said. “I can’t give it the time it deserves.”
The nominations were the first in years. Seven of the nine trustees have been serving under expired terms.
The large number of holdovers had led to concerns that the governor might opt to replace the board with all new members as the Showboat’s title problems gained statewide attention.
But five were reappointed: Board President Madeleine Deininger, Dean Pappas, Raymond Ciccone, Stanley Ellis and Michael Jacobson. The remaining two members, James Yoh and Emma Byrne, asked not to be reappointed, citing personal and business demands.
The three remaining new nominees also have ties to the university.
Margaret “Meg” Worthington of Galloway Township, is the daughter of former trustee Charles Worthington, who served for a decade in the 1990s. Andrew Dolce is the founder of Dolce Resorts, which ran the Stockton Seaview Resort and Golf Club until Dolce was bought out by Wyndham Hotels in January. Attorney Ellen Bailey, of Egg Harbor City, worked at Stockton under President Vera King Farris before going to law school and is a member of the Stockton Foundation board.
Worthington said she expressed interested in an appointment because she was worried that all new members might not understand Stockton. A Realtor, she said she believes in Stockton’s role as an educational and economic driver in Atlantic City and the region. She is also delighted that Kesselman is staying on as president.
“If there was too much change at once it would have set the college back,” she said.
Dolce, who chairs the board of the Stockton Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism, said he would bring real estate, hospitality and education expertise. He said he has already been involved in the community and supports Stockton having a presence in Atlantic City.
Bailey, who was raised by a foster mother, said education gave her opportunity and working at Stockton gave her the confidence to go to law school. She cites Farris as a role model and Stockton’s staff as a second family.
“Stockton gets in your blood,” she said. “It is one of those places you don’t forget. This is my way of paying it forward.”
Ciccone, a Stockton alumnus, said the board has been more engaged with faculty, staff and students since Kesselman took over. He is serving on the Atlantic City Initiative and also wants to expand the music program at Stockton.
“We are much more actively involved now,” he said. “Harvey encourages us to interact.”
Deininger agreed that the board model is now one of inclusion. She said it is laying the groundwork for the future, and board members will take a larger role, while still respecting the authority of the president.
“We are striving to do more within the boundaries of proper board procedure,” she said.