Stockton’s first $1 million endowment was announced at the dedication of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy on May 22, 2008.
The culmination of an intense fundraising effort, the $1 million was staked by a private donation of $500,000 on condition it be matched. Additional donations poured in. It became evident the matching funds would be secured – public confirmation for the need of watchdog on policy matters for Southern New Jersey and the entire state and region.
The Hughes Center has engaged in a number of activities designed to provide a public service in the region and across the state, including: public opinion polling, policy research, a public lecture series, and candidate debates.
Under the direction of founding executive director Sharon Schulman, the Hughes Center exceeded expectations since its inception. “The need for a think tank and voice for South Jersey was evidenced by the immediate acceptance of the Hughes Center by government officials and the media. The Center rapidly became a conduit for public opinion," said Schulman.
In addition to fulfilling its public service mission, the Hughes Center brings the name and reputation of Stockton University to areas beyond the Southern New Jersey region. For example, polling in the 2010 congressional race brought mentions of the Hughes Center and Stockton University to major national newspapers and websites across the country. Other polling included the gubernatorial race between Jon Corzine and Chris Christie as well as many area legislative races. Issue polling on environmental issues such as wind and nuclear energy has also been well received.
The “Jersey Sting” lecture was nationally televised on the C-Span Network’s popular "Book TV” program. The Hughes Center has attracted speakers like Governor and then – U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, former Governors Brendan T. Byrne, Thomas H. Kean, and Christine T. Whitman, former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, John Farmer Jr., senior counsel to the government’s 9/11 Commission. One very poignant program was moderated by Stuart Rabner, Chief Justice of the NJ Supreme Court, as he interviewed three Holocaust survivors about their experiences.
During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, Hughes sponsored legislation to prohibit ocean dumping, protect our beaches, enhance the region’s tourism industry and passed more than 40 major anticrime laws.