Politicians, executives and doctors went back to school Tuesday for the grand opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the first new medical school to open in New Jersey in nearly 40 years.
Founding dean Dr. Paul Katz welcomed the standing-room-only crowd to the $139 million, 200,000-square-foot building on Broadway Street, in Camden, and thanked the people who had worked since Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation creating the school in 2009, "when the dream became a reality."
Gov. Chris Christie told the audience that the opening of the school served as a great deed toward restoring trust among the various regions of the state.
"There has been mistrust, doubts and suspicions between the regions," Christie said, alluding to New Jersey's well-publicized North-South divide. But Christie said he cared deeply about all of the state, and if South Jersey doesn't receive the attention it deserves, then it is a mark on the entire state.
George E. Norcross III, chairman of the Cooper Health System board, told the story of the project's start in the 1970s, as the shared dream of his father and then-Gov. Jim Florio. Norcross thanked Florio for his dedication to the project, and spoke about the school leading the way for further progress in the city.
"This is part of a beginning," Norcross said, citing legislation intended to help propel education, safety and economic development in Camden.
State Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Audubon) followed his brother at the podium, and said half the incoming class of 50 students have decided to live in Camden, which demonstrates the dedication and economic pull the school brings to the city.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) thanked Christie for not wavering in his support for South Jersey. "It ain't easy, change … but when the stars line up with the right people, amazing things can get done."
Mayor Dana Redd, a lifelong Camden resident, said she was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the event. She welcomed the school on behalf of the city's residents, including the 50 residents that were hired to work on the construction of the facility.
"We will tech the rest of the world" how to embrace and impose change in higher education, said Rowan President Ali Houshmand in an impassioned speech, echoing the excitement of the day.
The event concluded with a short video documenting the construction of the building, and a brief luncheon.