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South Jersey

`Big J' trustees add 5 new members

Monday, July 21, 2003

Courier-Post Staff

The nonprofit group that operates the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum has expanded its board of trustees.

The new members come from backgrounds ranging from business development and fund-raising to sports.

The board wants to increase exposure and financial support for the Waterfront museum, said Pat Jones, co-chairwoman of the Home Port Alliance.

The new trustees are:

  • Peter A. Luukko of West Chester, Pa., who is president of Comcast-Spectacor Ventures, which oversees First Union Center and First Union Spectrum in Philadelphia.

  • David Kessler of Cherry Hill, founder of Sterling Medical Services and a former real estate developer.

  • Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-Camden, an Army veteran and waterfront development executive.

  • Rodney Sadler of Camden, harbormaster of Wiggins Park Marina just north of the battleship.

  • Sal Paolantonio of Haddon Township, an ESPN correspondent who covers professional football and baseball. He is a former print journalist who wrote a book about late Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo.

    Luukko, who has helped attract large audiences to events and entertainment venues, said it is a pleasure to support the community and preserve history.

    Paolantonio, an ex-Navy officer, called the battleship a "living, breathing classroom of history."

    "I have a love of the ship and the Navy, and I thought I could take my contacts in the communication industry and help the ship become more of an attraction up and down the East Coast," he said. "It's in a great location . . . and more people should be made aware of what it has to offer."

    Sadler, whose father helped build the New Jersey as a shipfitter at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, said he expects to enjoy serving as a trustee.

    "I've been involved in ship preservation like Lightship Barnegat and the Ship Preservation Guild for years," he said.

    The New Jersey is the most decorated battleship in Navy history with 19 campaign stars. It served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was retired in 1991 and opened as a museum in October 2001.

    Troy Collins, president and chief executive officer of the Home Port Alliance, said he is thrilled with the new members. Collins called them a "wonderful complement" to retired military veterans, politicians, business members, state representatives and waterfront planners already on the board.

    Making the battleship successful is demanding and complicated, added Jay Hadley, chairman of the trustees' fund-raising development committee.

    "We are developing a very aggressive, high-profile marketing program," said Hadley, vice president of development for Cooper University Hospital. "I am excited about how things are going."

    Though Collins said the alliance will never add a corporate reference to the museum's name, it will offer "marketing and philanthropic opportunities" for companies to sponsor areas or programs to help meet its annual $5.7 million budget.

    "As with any nonprofit cultural institution, fund-raising is key and board development is a continual process," Collins said. "We're proud to have built a dynamic group of trustees that is fully committed to the . . . ship as a monument to military valor."

    Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or

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