By CAROL COMEGNO
The executive vice president of the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum has left his post and returned to his former employer.
Thomas Seigenthaler of Haddonfield, a retired Navy admiral, submitted a letter of resignation that was effective last Friday, said museum CEO Troy Collins.
Seigenthaler, 72, had been involved in bringing the historic USS New Jersey to Camden since the inception of that campaign in 1998. He started as a volunteer with the Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit that now operates the museum on the Camden Waterfront. After the Navy donated the ship in 2000 for a museum in Camden instead of Bayonne, he became a paid executive director.
"His presence and his contribution to the project will forever be remembered," Collins said.
Seigenthaler called the ship a wonderful and positive project and its employees, especially its volunteers, great workers.
"I felt the basic mission I signed on for - to open the ship as a museum - is done, so now I am marching on," said the former admiral and electrical engineer, who often wore his Navy uniforms to ship functions.
He said he decided to pursue other challenges by returning to his former employer, NDI Systems Engineering of Thorofare, which he joined after leaving the Navy. As its director of development, he said he is looking forward to working on more defense projects for the Navy to help modernize its ships.
Collins said Seigenthaler's post will not be filled as the ship's fledgling museum operation continues to face financial challenges in its third year, due mainly to lack of state funding and a fund-raising campaign for private contributions that still is in its infancy.
He said the trustees of the Home Port Alliance are re-evaluating all staff positions as they consider a new budget this year. He said the museum did not meet its $5.7 million budget last year.
"However, we recognize the need for a military presence on the battleship and we will be evaluating that need in the future," Collins said.
Seigenthaler was shifted to executive vice president after Collins was hired two years ago to head the museum staff. Seigenthaler's recent duties were fund-raising with military groups and ship maintenance. He also served as the ship's public ambassador and frequent speaker.
Collins declined to reveal Seigenthaler's salary, saying it was confidential.
"He has been a source of inspiration, knowledge and contacts with the Navy and had unwavering support for bringing the ship back home to the waterfront. For that he will always be remembered," said John Matheussen, co-chairman of the alliance and executive director of the Delaware River Port Authority.
Patricia Jones, co-chairwoman of the alliance, said he was dedicated and "added credibility to our public face."
Seigenthaler was one of two former Navy officers recruited by the alliance to help them bring the ship back to the state and Camden. The other was Capt. David McGuigan, who is retired and also of Haddonfield. McGuigan resigned as president of the Home Port Alliance three years ago.
Seigenthaler was part of the team that helped in the successful application to the Navy for the ship. He later oversaw construction contracts like the new pier and the outfitting of the ship for public presentation.
From 1981 to 1985 Seigenthaler was commander of the now-defunct Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where the battleship was built, launched and commissioned during World War II before heading to the Pacific theater during World War II.
The New Jersey is the most decorated Navy battleship with 19 campaign stars awarded between 1944 and 1991 when it was decommissioned for the last time.
Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or firstname.lastname@example.org