After serving as President of Stockton University for nearly eight years, Dr. Harvey Kesselman announced in the summer of 2022 that he would be retiring from the presidency on June 30, 2023, the end of the academic year. Kesselman met recently with an Argo reporter to provide insight into his decision and discuss what he sees as unfinished business he still wants to address.
Kesselman explained that “the timing is perfect for a number of reasons.” Those reasons include the university’s “incredibly successful” Middle States reaccreditation, Stockton’s newly-acquired national university status, and the university’s 50th-anniversary celebration. Kesselman quipped that his eighth year as president is the perfect time for him to retire, saying that “George Washington had it right.”
Kesselman also claimed that the timing of his retirement is ideal in terms of the succession of power. “When I started, one of the things that I had said to the board was that I wanted to be the first president to actually hand the baton over to the next president. That’s what happens with great universities,” said Kesselman.
Kesselman views the search for his successor through an optimistic lens, stating that he anticipates a very successful search involving “really high-quality candidates” due to Stockton University’s fiscal and academic flourishment. Though specific committees will directly handle the search for Kesselman’s successor, he anticipates meeting with and getting to know the final candidates once selections have been made. He hopes to see his successor “maintain his ‘student first’ philosophy” and ensure that “the value of the degree continues to improve.”
“I hope that this person, when they’re making decisions, can look a student’s parents, significant others … in the eye and say ‘I made that decision because I believe it was truly in the best interest of your student.’ That’s what I want the next president to be able to say. I don’t care about anything else about them,” said Kesselman.
When asked about his remaining unfinished business as president, Kesselman listed a number of major goals, such as reconnecting with the student body. “I was once the provost here for five years, I was the Dean of the School of Education prior to that … [and] I want to reconnect with the students, reconnect with the faculty, and see what they want,” he said.
The president also referenced the Atlantic City campus expansion project, which he regards as one of the many highlights of his career as Stockton’s president. “I would like to finish phase two of Atlantic City on time within budget, which I’m very confident we’re going to do. I hopefully have plans–good plans– for phase three of Atlantic City,” said Kesselman. He further said that he hopes to see Stockton’s presence in Atlantic City continue to grow after his retirement. These hopes are accompanied by Kesselman’s desire to see improvements made to the university’s Galloway campus, which includes potential library, classroom, and roadway renovations.
Outside of the Atlantic City project, Kesselman considers his role in the improvement of Stockton’s reputation and its subsequent increase in funding to be one of his greatest achievements. He stated that during his time at Stockton, the university has “gained the respect of the New Jersey Legislature” which has “overall improved the value of the Stockton degree.” Kesselman said that these achievements were made with his “student first” policy in mind; “students [come] first and my vision and mission will follow,” he said.
Kesselman, an alumnus of Stockton University’s first class at the Mayflower Hotel, offered these words of wisdom to the current generation of students:
“Work hard, utilize all the services that we offer here. Don’t be shy. Ask questions. Get everything you can out of Stockton. Stockton can give you everything you need if you seek it. Get involved … recognize that there will be obstacles along the way. You have to overcome them. Be flexible when you think.
“Be engaged, caring citizens. If you just leave here with a degree but are not willing to volunteer for the United Way, or be part of a planning board, or being part of a school board or your town council … then we haven’t fulfilled our job either. Our job is to make you an engaged citizen.”