Stockton Commencements on May 10, May 12 Include First Ceremony at Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall

For Immediate Release

Contact:         Maryjane Briant
                        News and Media Relations Director
                        Galloway, N.J. 08205
                        (609) 652-4593

Galloway, N.J. - Stockton University will celebrate its first-ever Boardwalk Hall Commencement in Atlantic City beginning at noon on Friday, May 12, following the Doctoral and Master’s Commencement at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 10 in the Sports Center on the Galloway campus.

A record total of over 1,550 graduates will receive degrees this spring.

President Harvey Kesselman will preside as graduates of Stockton’s seven schools join together to receive their undergraduate degrees in one ceremony in Atlantic City for the first time.

State Sen. James Whelan, D-2nd, who served as Atlantic City’s mayor from 1990-2001, and as a city councilman for the eight years prior, will give the keynote address. Whelan holds a Master’s in Education degree from Temple University and taught in the city’s schools for over 20 years.

While mayor, he worked to create jobs, reduce waste in city government and make the city more attractive to families. Under his leadership, Atlantic City attracted more than $4.5 billion in business start-ups and expansions, including development of The Walk outlet shops. He oversaw redevelopment of the Northeast Inlet, and construction of new schools and hundreds of new housing units.

As a senator, Whelan has championed tourism issues and advocated for New Jersey’s veterans and active-duty service personnel. Among his legislative accomplishments are sponsoring the law allowing internet gaming in New Jersey and being the prime sponsor of the law creating the VETeach Pilot Program, which helps veterans to become teachers.

Among other laws he sponsored was legislation allowing state colleges to enter into public-private partnerships to build more dormitories and classrooms, which was instrumental in development of Stockton’s new residential campus in Atlantic City, now under construction.

Stockton held its first classes in the Mayflower Hotel on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1971 and is strengthening its roots in the city, which already include Stockton student teachers in every school, civic partnerships, community gardens, academic classes and cultural and community events at the Carnegie Center,  Dante Hall and the Noyes Arts Garage.

Ashley Vaccaro, of Forked River, N.J. will be the student speaker at the Doctoral and Master’s ceremony. A recent graduate of the Master’s in American Studies program, she is currently pursuing certification in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies.

One of Vaccaro’s greatest academic achievements was creating a digital database for the Hammonton History Project commemorating the town’s 150th anniversary.

After receiving her teaching certification, Vaccaro plans to teach high school social studies and higher education simultaneously. Her ultimate goal is to obtain a Doctoral degree in Cultural Studies so she can become a full-time professor and return to teach at Stockton.
Joachim Cendana, a Liberal Studies major, will deliver the student speech at the Boardwalk Hall ceremony.

He is graduating with teaching certification in elementary education, middle school language arts and social studies. He did his student teaching at Orchard Valley Middle School in Washington Township, N.J., and serves as a substitute teacher at St. Mary School in Williamstown, N.J. Cendana is very active with Our Lady of Peace parish, serving as a pianist, cantor, choir member, youth choir director and teacher.

After graduation, he said he plans to enter the classroom, seeking to impart knowledge and values that will contribute to students becoming well-rounded and caring people.

Stockton has joined a growing trend in moving away from identifying valedictorians and salutatorians for commencement ceremonies. Student speakers are selected through an application process initiated by the Provost’s Office and supported by the Faculty Senate. 

Whelan will receive the university’s Distinguished Service Award at the Commencement for his significant contributions to Stockton University and the State of New Jersey.

Nine long-time faculty members will receive Emeritus Status on their retirements:

  • David Carr, professor of Political Science and director of Research and Policy Analysis, William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy;
  • Jamie Cromartie, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies;
  • Sonia Gonsalves, professor of Psychology and director of Academic Assessment;
  • Bess Kathrins, professor of Physical Therapy;
  • Melaku Lakew, professor of Economics;
  • Franklin Smith, professor of Sociology;
  • Karen Stewart, professor of Business Studies, Marketing;
  • Henry van Kuiken, professor of Dance;
  • Marilyn Vito, associate professor of Business Studies, Accounting.

To watch the ceremonies streaming live online on May 10 and May 12, visit