The local rowing community and other friends of Stockton University attended a fundraiser for the Ospreys’ crew program Friday night in Atlantic City.
They were also at the Rowing and Growing event to honor Stan Bergman, one of the sport’s area legends.
The event was held in the Fannie Lou Hamer Event Room, and funds were committed to add three new Stockton eight boats and other rowing equipment.
“We are giving back to a community that supported us as adolescents and young adults,” said Karen Alton, granddaughter of Elizabeth Alton, a driving force behind Stockton’s founding, in comments included in a news release from the university.
“With your help, Stockton will win a national championship.”
The crowd applauded when Karen Alton announced the Alton and Endicott families will provide the funds for two varsity eight shells.
The boats cost about $40,000 each.
Former Brigantine Mayor Philip Guenther, also a former rower, introduced Bergman, who coached the sport at Holy Spirit High School and the University of Pennsylvania for decades.
“His core values, coupled with his core knowledge of the sport, made his teams successful,” said Guenther, who introduced Bergman. “I’ve never met anyone else who has the ability he has to bring out the best in those around him, his ability to inspire and make a commitment to excellence, to working hard and to being a good teammate.”
More applause greeted the announcement that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey would underwrite the cost of an eight boat to be named for Bergman.
Bergman credited the late Dr. John Holland, founder of the Viking Rowing Club in Ventnor, with encouraging him to become the coach at Holy Spirit High School at age 24 in 1965. He coached the Spartans for 20 years and then took over the Penn program. Bergman returned to coach Holy Spirit in 2008-09.
“He saw something in me at 24, and he changed my life,” Bergman said.
He said Holland “talked Atlantic City High School and Holy Spirit into starting crew,” and the sport grew from there through Atlantic County.
Bergman also commended Stockton on its commitment to developing a championship rowing team and its hiring of John Bancheri, a former Atlantic City High School rower, as the first full-time rowing coach in university history.
“He is one of the best in the nation,” Bergman said.
Bancheri thanked Stockton for giving him the chance to come home and develop a national championship- level Osprey Navy.
He said that along with men’s coach Brad Cress and assistant coaches Joe Welsh and BJ Fox, they bring more than 150 years of coaching experience to Stockton.
“It’s happening a lot faster than we thought it would,” Bancheri said, noting that 21 women were headed to Florida for a competition, double the size of the previous Stockton women’s squad.
He thanked the donors for the support and noted that now that they are getting three new boats, they also need a trailer.
He said the first home race would be March 24 in the intracoastal back bay of Atlantic City with Cabrini College and the University of Rochester.
“You guys are headed in the right direction,” said longtime Atlantic City High School coach Bob Garbutt. “I am so excited for Stockton rowing.”
Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said when the university opened the campus in Atlantic City and decided to develop a national caliber program, they contacted members of the local rowing community for advice and assistance.
“I pledged we would build a program we would be proud of, but we knew we couldn’t do it alone,” he said. “We need the support of our rowing community. We do have national caliber level supporters.”
In addition to the Altons and Horizon, major donors at the event were the Azeez Foundation, former Sen. Bill Gormley, Calvi Electric, Marathon Engineering and Environmental Services, George Miller, Margie and Jack Plackter, Dr. Francis Previti, Dr. David Smith and SOSH Architects. Previti and Smith were named honorary team physicians.
Contact: 609-272-7210 GGargan@pressofac.com