More than 700 students of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey received undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fall Commencement ceremonies today at the college’s Galloway campus.
Provost and Executive Vice President Harvey Kesselman presented the candidates while President Herman Saatkamp conferred their degrees in front of family and friends, as well as members of the Board of Trustees, college administration, faculty and staff.
President Saatkamp told the gathering, “Our students are promises we make to a future we will not see, and at this graduation, with these fine students, you can see that we are delivering on our promises.”
He went on to say, “Each Stockton student is now an international student, connected to a global community and economy as never before.”
“Here is an important message to our graduates: Having a college degree is not enough,” President Saatkamp went on to say. “Having a college degree gets you a long way because you have the ability to continue to learn and the likelihood of living well.”
“Even so, there are no guarantees,” he said. “What is ahead of you is the delight of moving forward into a new life but it also includes persistence, diligence, hard work, and the task of getting along with others who may be different from you in a cosmopolitan world.”
“Our future depends on you continuing to work on building communities of respect and honor,” President Saatkamp said.
Earlier in the day, the family of Lindsey Sickler, who died tragically in a car accident on Dec. 11, accepted her master’s degree in Communications Disorders on her behalf at the Master’s and Doctoral Hooding Ceremony in the Performing Arts Center.
Through tears, Sickler’s mother, Marcelle said, “Thank you, everybody,” as she and Lindsey’s father, Tom, her brother, Brett and her sister, Holly received Lindsey’s hood and diploma.
Sickler, a 26-year-old speech therapist at the Rieck Avenue School in Millville and a Hammonton resident, “was an advocate for all those who needed a voice,” said President Saatkamp. “She was also a champion for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She touched many ...in a way that will be her legacy.”
A moment of silence was observed in Sickler’s honor at both the 10 a.m. Hooding and 1 p.m. Commencement ceremonies. Her fellow graduates of the college’s first Master’s in Communications Disorders class wore memorial pins with her photo on them.
Lauren Stopa, a Communications Disorders graduate from Manasquan, Monmouth County, spoke at the Hooding Ceremony at 10 a.m., calling it “a very bittersweet day” for their class.
“We truly are the pioneers. We are more than just classmates, we are family,” Stopa said.
“In the words of my classmate, Lindsey Sickler, we are truly grateful for the faculty. You taught us to never give up on our dreams.”
Dr. Robert Helsabeck, a charter member of the Stockton faculty who retired and was named Professor Emeritus of Sociology earlier this year, gave the Commencement address in the afternoon in the Sports Center.
He told the graduates that the faculty had worked to make them “capable, agile and humble.” He said they will need the agility “to keep learning,” and the humility “to seek out the knowledge of your colleagues.”
“We’re preparing you not only to make a living, but to make a life,” he said.
Dr. Helsabeck urged them to “see the larger purpose in your work,” and to seek extra value “around the edges of your job.”
He said sometimes tangential benefits, such as eating breakfast and talking things over with your crew, make jobs most enjoyable.
Dr. Helsabeck also told the graduates that “your life is larger than your job.” He reiterated that they should “make a living – and make a life.”
Dr. Helsabeck, who also served for two terms as dean of General Studies and was the first president of the Faculty Senate, received the college’s Distinguished Service Award.
He is the author of three books and many papers and articles on conflict resolution, general education, urban development and the elderly, and religious beliefs among clergy and laity. A specialist on conflict resolution, he served on the Governor's Advisory Board for the New Jersey Institute on Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies.
Provost Kesselman presented Professor of Business Law Robert D. King, J.D., with a resolution granting him the title of Professor Emeritus, “in honor of his dedicated service, scholarship and teaching.”
Maribeth Capelli, president of the Student Senate, told the graduates:
“Your undergraduate career has been a long and exhausting journey, but most definitely a rewarding one provided by Stockton. Stockton's distinctive atmosphere not only has allowed students to rigorously focus on their concentration, but has also allowed students to dip their toes into waters they never imagined seeing.”
“I have come to realize that being a Stockton student is much more than attending class and going home,” said Capelli, a senior Psychology major from Hammonton. “Stockton is an experience, a family, and a very special, distinct place. …I feel comfortable being surrounded by individuals who will always support me and allow me to try new things that I never imagined trying.”
“The community at Stockton has shaped me into a person that I would not have become on my own. I went from living only 30 minutes away from my college to actually calling my college home,” Capelli said.
“Graduates, when you leave this institution take the lessons and what you have learned inside and outside of the classroom as well as your Stockton experiences,” she continued. “I hope we will all look back at our time at Stockton to see how much we have grown, the obstacles we have overcome, and the experiences we will take with us. I hope after you leave here, you will look back and remember all of the amazing things that made the Stockton experience an experience like no other. At no other school will you find Ospreys, a Lake named Fred, or a place to call home.”
Dr. Mary Lou Galantino, professor of Physical Therapy in the School of Health Sciences, served as grand marshal at the Commencement. Dr. Galantino is on the roster of Fulbright specialists for her expertise in HIV-AIDS rehabilitation, cancer rehabilitation and integrative medicine.
Health Sciences major Kennis Bero sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the ceremony. Arts major Joseph Sramaty sang the alma mater, “Our Stockton,” with words by Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing Stephen Dunn, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2001; the music is by musician, educator and reviewer Ellen Grolman.
Professor of Music Beverly Vaughan performed a piano prelude and accompanied the soloists; the Stockton Chamber Orchestra also performed prior to the ceremony. The group is comprised of students Rebecca Revay on violin, Anastasia McGeoch on viola and Victoria Nucci on flute, led by Dr. Christopher Di Santo, associate professor of Music and Coordinator of Classical Music Studies.— News release from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey