Stockton University has selected a New Jersey native who currently heads a state college in Connecticut as its next president.

Joe Bertolino, president of Southern Connecticut State University, will start his new post July 1 and earn $375,000. He will replace Harvey Kesselman, who has spent more than 50 years at Stockton and has been president since 2015. Kesselman, who has the distinction of having been a student in Stockton’s first class in 1971, announced last summer he would retire this June.

“I am keenly aware of the challenges facing higher education — especially public regional institutions,” Bertolino said in a statement. “I can say with confidence that Stockton is facing those challenges head on and will continue to thrive.”

Bertolino has said he is a strong proponent of social justice, which is rooted in his own background as an openly gay college administrator.

“I have an opportunity and a responsibility as a member of an underrepresented group to make sure that I am providing opportunity for students and for others in the work that I do,” Bertolino, 59, said four years ago in a YouTube video on social justice.

At that time, when he was president of Southern Connecticut, he noted that he was one of 100 college presidents who were openly LGBTQ, up from 25 when he became a president a few years earlier.

He said his commitment to social justice grew when he was vice president of enrollment management and student affairs at Queens College/City University of New York and worked with undocumented students, Dreamers,and they would come into his office and say, “ ‘I don’t know what to do now. I have no place to go.’ I think I became committed to them, committed to that work, and committed to social justice in a larger context.”

At Lyndon State College in Vermont, where he was president, he said he worked with students from poor rural areas, and at Southern Connecticut, 40% of students were Black or Latino.

“It’s important to us as an institution to commit to social justice,” he said in the video.

Bertolino has spent more than three decades in higher education. In addition to Queens, Lyndon, and Southern Connecticut, where he has worked since 2016 and has been known as “President Joe,” he also had been a dean at Barnard College in New York.

At Stockton, he will oversee the more than 9,000 students who attend the main campus in Galloway in the Pinelands National Reserve and a campus in Atlantic City.

Bertolino is also a musical guy.

At Southern Connecticut, he played the accordion for a yuletide video greeting and sang at commencement.

He’s got local ties as well. Bertolino was born in Glendora, Camden County, and his late mother, Eileen, graduated from Stockton in 1977.

“Being here now to serve her alma mater as its president is both meaningful and an act of love,” he said in a news release.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer