Reflections on 10 years of Stockton’s Kramer Hall
Stockton University’s Kramer Hall now stands as a stately edifice to higher education. It is a place that draws staff, faculty and students from throughout the region. It also draws people from throughout the town of Hammonton.
It is a welcoming place, a warm place. The people who are in leadership roles there—Director Christina Birchler, Meetings and Events Specialist, Academic Support Liaison Nick Zebrowski, Noyes Museum of Art Executive Director Michael Cagno and many others on their staff—have created a culture where people can come in, feel comfortable and engage in everything from educational pursuits to Chamber of Commerce meetings to art shows to a variety of other purposes.
I have many personal memories from the first decade of Stockton University’s Kramer Hall.
This newspaper covered the creation of the partnership between the town and the university (then college) as well as the announcement of the donation from Charles and the late Lynn Kramer, all of which made the revitalization of the building and the programming by Stockton University inside its walls possible.
Throughout the years, any time I have walked into Kramer Hall, I have looked forward to the experience. It usually starts with a conversation with Chuck Richvalsky, the guard by the front doors who is always friendly and engaging. Through the years I have had the privilege of having extended chats on a range of topics with both former Kramer Hall Director Eileen Conran Folks and current Director Christina Birchler. Both have shown their dedication to making Stockton University’s presence known (and expanding that presence) in Hammonton during their tenures. (Birchler, Gina Rullo and I also talk baseball on occasion as well as education.)
I recall how invested Kramer Hall and the people who work there were with the town’s sesquicentennial in 2016. Cagno coordinated excellent displays in the Noyes Museum of Art’s gallery space on the first floor of Kramer Hall that featured aspects of the town’s 150-year history. Upstairs in one of the classrooms, a short two-person play based on postcards sent to and from Hammonton from the late 1800s to the 1910s was staged featuring actors Nick Zebrowski and Kathryn McGough.
As part of the sesquicentennial, back in April of 2016, I gave two lectures about Hammonton history in a classroom at Kramer Hall. The classrooms are excellent and provide a comfortable environment in which to learn.
When Kramer Hall opened, The Gazette donated several historical photos from my book Images of America: Hammonton to be placed on the walls of the building. We supported the municipality’s effort to bring higher education to town through a partnership with Stockton University and Kramer Hall, and a decade later, we continue to support the effort because we believe it has made Hammonton a better town, and Stockton University a better university.
We continue to believe the university can expand in Hammonton, as it has on its original campus in Pomona, in Atlantic City, in Manahawkin and in Woodbine. After 10 years, Stockton University’s Kramer Hall is now a landmark in Hammonton. Its existence has made the downtown, and the entire town, better.
Courses that are offered at Kramer Hall include an M.S. in Data Science and Strategic Analytics and an M.A. in Counseling. It is a point of pride to think about the high level of learning that is going on inside the building on Front Street. It makes me feel good when I drive by in the evening and its windows are lit and I think about the professionals of tomorrow who will remember their time in the college classrooms of Hammonton at Kramer Hall.
The New Jersey Transit train does go by and blow its horn. It hasn’t stopped 10 years of success for Stockton University’s Kramer Hall. Since the former factory building was transformed into a university building a decade ago, there have been multiple revitalization efforts at buildings throughout the downtown and the town. Those efforts continue to the present day, right up to the building owned by the Ricca Family that is being repainted at the corner of 12th Street and Railroad Avenue, just a short walk down Front Street from Kramer Hall through a park area that has been renamed for Stockton University.
I do not think it is coincidental that the entire town has been uplifted—there has been revitalization in all commercial areas, and the value of residential homes has greatly increased—since 2013, when Stockton University’s Kramer Hall was opened. It was an excellent idea that continues to pay dividends, and the leaders at the town and Stockton University—as well as the Kramer Family—are right to look backward and forward with a great deal of pride in what their efforts have brought to Hammonton, and Stockton University.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.