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  • Writer's pictureMohammed Fuad

Kramer Hall turns 10

HAMMONTON—Stockton University at Kramer Hall held its 10-year anniversary celebration outside Kramer Hall on Front Street on April 20. The event featured members of Stockton University, alumni, Councilman Jonathan Oliva, Stockton University President Dr. Harvey Kesselman and Chairman of Kramer Beverage Company and philanthropist Charles Kramer speaking to those in attendance outside the Kramer Hall parking lot on a warm, sunny day.

Guests who attended were treated to food, snacks and beverages from Casciano Coffee Bar and Sweetery, Kitchen 19, Breadheads Bakery, Tacos al Carbon, Henri’s Hott Barbeque and Bagliani’s Market. Blueberry themed drinks were served as well and guests were treated to a live performance by Zach Runfolo and a large canvas mural painting organized by the Noyes Museum of Art.

Guests who attended gathered outside of the Kramer Hall parking lot as Kramer Hall Director Christina Birchler and Noyes Museum of Art Executive Director Michael Cagno were the emcees and began the festivities warning those that they will try to get the speeches in before the train comes around.

“One of the wonderful perks of working here in Hammonton is that we get to listen to the train a few times a day so we’re going to try to get this in before the next train comes in but we’re going to have a moment of silence as the train passes,” Birchler joked to those in attendance.

Birchler spoke about the ribbon-cutting of Stockton University’s new location in Hammonton more than 10 years ago, describing the day as cold but the welcome being warm. Birchler spoke on Kramer Hall and Noyes Museum of Art being embraced by Hammonton, supporting students and faculties by offering academic programs, continuing education, art exhibitions and community meetings. Cagno talked about over 50 curated exhibitions from works by artists ranging from Hammonton to as far as Europe and Asia in countries such as Syria, England and Japan in the 10-year history.

“[The artists] focused on important themes such as immigration, Black Lives Matter and climate change. Programming that has included panel discussions, dance, poetry and film are only a few examples of the joint efforts between the museum and Kramer Hall. The success of Kramer Hall is illustrated by the new public mural just down the street [Marquez Restaurant], featuring over 60 portraits from the Hispanic community of Hammonton, advancing education, partnership, diversity and community,” Cagno said.

Stockton University President and tenured professor of education Dr. Harvey Kesselman was the first speaker of the event. Cagno noted Kesselman as the fully-sitting president to be a part of the inaugural class of Stockton University and the most recognizable alumnus in Stockton history. Kesselman’s daily mission to strengthen Stockton’s degree value has resulted in Stockton University as one of the top 100 schools in the U.S. News and World Report nationally.

Kesselman noted that Kramer Hall was an important expansion for Stockton University as it expanded in other areas and credited Charles Kramer for providing the funding in order for Kramer Hall to become successful. Kramer Hall’s 10 year anniversary is an important milestone and while Kesselman noted that the modern 10th anniversary gift is diamonds, Kesselman said that the appropriate gift is aluminum while also praising Kramer’s partnership.

“Achieving such an event is worthy of acknowledgement and we’re so glad that so many of our friends and supporters are here to celebrate with us. Many of you know that the modern 10th anniversary gift is diamonds but for today’s event, however, we didn’t budget for such an extravagance and frankly, considering Stockton’s close relationship with Charles Kramer, the actual traditional 10-year celebration gift was more appropriate and that’s aluminum. So Charles, instead of a string of diamonds, maybe will spin together some of your empty soda and beer cans, that would be very good for Kramer Beverages,” Kesselman said.

Kesselman noted that we are in an incredible period and is a demonstration of a great partnership and commitment from Kramer, staff and faculty and the community, including Birchler, Cagno and Thomas Kinsella.

“For 10 years, the staff of Kramer Hall and the Noyes Museum of Art at Stockton University has dedicated themselves to making this facility an anchor within the Hammonton community by uniquely combining educational activities and cultural offerings. There are so many people who have played a role in Kramer Hall’s success. I’d like to acknowledge the incredible work of Christina Birchler and Michael Cagno in serving as leaders and mentors of this great site.

There’s also a faculty member who’s here and that’s Tom Kinsella, please stand up and recognize Tom. Tom has just been named the distinguished professor at Stockton and there’s only eight of those in Stockton so kudos on that award,” Kesselman said.

Kramer was the next speaker and helped establish the Hammonton Endowed Scholarship Fund and has been acknowledged as a strong supporter of the Noyes Museum. When Kramer Beverage moved to Hammonton in 2001, Kramer said it was “meant to be” and became more involved when Stockton and Hammonton partnered in establishing the institution here.

“I’m very happy that a lot of hard work of the strong assistance of President Kesselman, he was the voice of Stockton as far as helping the approvals. Over the past 10 years, I’ve watched closely and have been told and seen so much usage Kramer Hall has had in the community and the combination of being an anchor in Hammonton for the residents, organizations, our own company, we’ve had meetings here of the Chamber of Commerce. It’s a phenomenal institution of higher learning,” Kramer said.

Kramer spoke about the concerns by some Hammontonians when Kramer Hall was coming here as it would cost the town money but the question marks no longer exist and has become a complete success and credited the success of the Noyes Museum and the art that has been on display during the years and called it an overall terrific experience.

Stockton Dean of School of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dr. Marissa Levy was the next speaker and noted that the school working more closely with the facility that houses the counseling program as well as the child welfare training partnership as a wonderful opportunity.

“The location of Kramer Hall affords our counseling and our data science and strategic analytic students the opportunity to receive a graduate education that is easily accessible from all areas of New Jersey. Furthermore, students in these two fields especially provide services to the local community that are greatly lacking. Counseling is a profession that is in high demand and one that is absolutely essential in this part of New Jersey. Many of our students have been fortunate to serve the Hammonton community in internship and practicum placements and also upon graduation in their chosen careers. The Kramer Hall team, staff, faculty who teach here truly embody the students first philosophy that we guide all of our students with at our campuses. I would argue they have surpassed some of our high expectations,” Levy said.

Dr. Johanna R. Johnson of the Stockton University Foundation Board of Directors spoke about the importance of the building to her as her aunt Rose spent many years as a garment worker. Johnson was present at the opening of the building and credited learning from Kramer on the importance of philanthropy, raising $100,000 for the endowment scholarship as well as describing Kramer Hall as a gem in downtown Hammonton for its well-maintained building and its programs, praising Birchler, Cagno and Birchler’s predecessor Eileen Conran-Folks for their impact.

“Through the generosity of Dr. Ed Wrobleski and his wife June, along with several others, our goal was met. The scholarship endowment has grown to $100-200,000 and since 2017, $20,000 has been awarded. With the growing student need, we must do more and I encourage you to use the QR code to contribute to this scholarship,” Johnson said.

Councilman Jonathan Oliva spoke on the history of the building, which was the original home of the Hammonton Shoe Company in the late 1890s and how the growth was instrumental to the town’s growth as a community and was later widely known as the National Garment Factory. The building was then vacated and fell into disrepair, according to Oliva, but years later, Mayor Stephen DiDonato and town advocate Jim Donio under their leadership worked to partner with Stockton University to create an adaptive reuse for the location.

“The town was eager to expand educational opportunities while finding a partner to bolster its vibrant downtown. Many conversations, late night work sessions and tough decisions over a period of years were had to make this co-managed project really become a reality but the end result has been much more than a beautiful building, with state of the art classrooms and programs and there’s no doubt that the building is a special thing for us and the historic preservation of it through adaptive reuse to create a vibrant scholastic environment is nothing short of wonderful, yet it’s been the people who’ve made it come together and who’ve managed this space who have been the true impact to our community,” Oliva said.

Second-year M.A. in Counseling student Jennifer Chung spoke about how she didn’t know the building existed when she first heard the program was in Kramer Hall while the main buildings she knew was Galloway and Atlantic City and joked that she’ll be in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of blueberries, which she found out after Googling the town.

“I truly feel that Kramer Hall is home away from home. Kramer Hall has a warmth I never thought a building could have, not just from the staff that runs it but the town itself feels a comforting pub everytime I drive in no matter what the season is,” Chung said.

Adjunct faculty member Keiana Dunn shared how the Data Science and Strategic Analytics (DSSA) program allowed her to make a career transition and become a data scientist after working as a clinical scientist, working on projects that make a great impact.

“The DSSA program allowed me to transition to one career, pursued my passions and gaining the skills and courage to follow my true interests. The professors, Dr. Russell Manson, Dr. Clint Baldwin and Professor John Mick were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to be bold in pursuing my ambitions. I remember a time I was in tears about my final project and Dr.

Manson told me ‘whether you believe you can or not, you’re right.’ His encouragement gave me the push I needed to overcome obstacles and finish the project, even when I doubted myself,” Dunn said.

Marie Hayden is an alumna of the M.A. in Counseling Program and was the final speaker of the event. Hayden immigrated in 2018 from Jamaica and realized online education wasn’t for her. Hayden praised Zebrowski for being patient with her with her numerous questions and was ecstatic to find out that she was one of the many students that was accepted into the program. She also praised the staff who helped support her through a difficult time in her life and was emotional reminiscing about the support.

“The things I appreciated most about Kramer Hall and Hammonton: the people. Friendly, encouraging, understanding, solution-oriented and practical. The smiles from everyone as I entered the building and the professional was second to none, it felt like they were a family here and I was a welcomed member. In my 11 years of pursuing higher education opportunities, this was my first time encountering such shared dreams and dedication to students from all staff members. At the end of my program, I experienced one of the hardest times of my life. Dr. Martino, bless her heart, I don’t think the staff knew the details of what I was going through but we came up with a plan and they supported it wholeheartedly. Thanks to each of you for allowing me to attain my personal standard of success. I zoomed in and zoomed out and in good ole Jamaican lingo, what would?” Hayden said.


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