University formally opens Camden Academic Building

University formally opens Camden Academic Building


Rowan University and the City of Camden took a leap forward together on Monday when Rowan officially opened its Camden Academic Building.

The Academic Building, which includes the restored First Camden National Bank and Trust building at 606 Cooper Street, a new three-story addition at the former bank’s rear and an Annex building, will enable Rowan to double enrollment on the campus.

Rowan has operated a satellite campus in Camden since 1969 but in recent years shared some classroom space with Camden County College across the street. The new Academic Building consolidates the campus in Rowan buildings and includes 12 new classrooms (in addition to five in the Annex), a first-floor multi-purpose room with capacity for 144 and unique amenities throughout such as student lounges in former bank vaults on the lower level.

“I would like this to be a launching pad for what’s about to happen in Camden,” proclaimed Rowan President Dr. Ali Houshmand.

Addressing about 150 attendees in the former bank’s cavernous, restored marble lobby, Houshmand predicted a resurgent Camden will build on its proud industrial and commercial past, its vibrant present and its great promise for the future.

That future, he said, in which Camden can become an internationally recognized corporate, medical and research hub, is already happening as evidenced in the investment by companies moving to the city such as Subaru of America, the Philadelphia 76ers and energy technology firm Holtec, whose website describes a $260 million outlay along the Delaware River.

An evolving “eds and meds” research center, Camden is home to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Cooper University Healthcare, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper and a partnership between Rowan and Rutgers-Camden in a developing college of health sciences.

With great highways, proximity to Philadelphia and a short drive to New York and Washington, the City of Camden is “precious land,” Houshmand said.

“We can turn this place into a center for educational research and medical delivery,” he said. “If people will go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, surely they’ll come to this city.”

Expanding access

Rowan, which in recent years has pursued numerous ways in which to increase access to a high quality, affordable undergraduate degree, serves students from Camden and its surrounding communities on the Camden campus where they pursue a variety of programs including a new bachelor’s in Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management, a master’s in Counseling in Educational Settings and a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Hundreds of students on the campus also take advantage of pre-college programs including the Educational Opportunity Fund, English as a Second Language, CHAMP/Gear Up and Upward Bound for English Learners.

The restoration and expansion project was funded with a $17.6 million grant from the N.J. Higher Education Capital Improvement Fund.

Visitors to the newly renovated and expanded campus explored sections of the restored 1920s era bank building. On the lower level, vaults converted to student lounge space still contain hundreds of private former safety deposit boxes, now partitioned behind glass, and the vaults’ original two-foot thick, solid steel doors, are now bolted open.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, whose family has deep roots in Camden, said the state money invested in the Academic Building will pay dividends for decades to come.

“I believe our students are evidence of those dividends,” Norcross said.

Touring the lower level vaults after the ribbon-cutting, sophomore Sincere Perez, 20, of Camden, envisioned long, comfortable hours studying and socializing there.

“It’s very cool,” said Perez, an aspiring school teacher. “This was definitely money well spent.”