Long before he was a respected managing partner and CEO of Withum, Bill Hagaman was just a freshman – wondering how he was going to get through his sophomore year, let alone make it to graduation day.
It was not the work in the classroom that caused the panic, but finances.
Due to a variety of circumstances, Hagaman did not have the money to pay for the second semester. So he went to say goodbye to his teacher, Professor Charles Yeager.
He left with a personal check from Yeager to cover his tuition and books – and a feeling of gratitude that never left him.
“If not for him, I would probably never go back to college, and I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said the emotional Hagman after receiving the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award from Stockton University Business School earlier this month.
Where he is today is someone who has the power to bring this gratitude forward.
Earlier this week, Hagman announced his commitment to fund the new first-generation student scholarship in perpetuity. Beginning in 2023-24, two first-generation college students in the Business School will receive a $2,000 award to help defray college costs. This was the same amount Yeager had given him.
“When I was here, I was a first-generation college student,” Hagman said. “I was over six years old. My family had no money. We were on food stamps. But I was determined to go to college. I hope to help another young man in similar circumstances.”
He chose Stockton because it was close to his home in Ocean County and was affordable. Working full time while attending college, he said that generous Yeager check, which Hagman later repaid, was just one of several inflection points during his time at Stockton that helped him find his way in life and success.
“Stockton kissed me, and gave me my first chance,” Hagman said.
When Alfonso Ogboy, dean of Stockton Business School, told Hageman that he would be the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, Hagman said it made him think about what his time at Stockton had meant to him,
“Stockton has always been in the back of my mind,” he said. “But I don’t like to look back. I like to look forward. So, I started thinking about how to push it forward.”
Stockton University President Harvey Kiselman said scholarships like Hageman have a huge impact on students.
“This kind of gift really makes a difference in their lives,” Kiselman said. “That could be the difference between staying and leaving. We couldn’t be more proud that Bill admitted to his university.”
Ogbuehi said the Business School has committed to reaching out to alumni and creating relationships that can help current students with mentorship, internships, and scholarships.
Daniel Nugent, Stockton’s Chief Development Officer, noted that the scholarship agreement was signed during National Generation 1 Week, when Stockton is highlighting Ospreys’ first initiative to help first generation students succeed. Nearly half of Stockton students are first in their family to attend college.
“Not only will you make a difference in the lives of award-winning students, but you can also inspire more of our 13,000 business alumni to do the same,” Nugent told Atgawatan.
The Chairman of the Stockton Board of Trustees, Raymond Ciccone, was a fellow of the Stockton attackers.
“Every accounting student can look for it,” Ciccone said. “He was a traveler and a first-generation student who rose to become CEO of one of the largest accounting firms in the country. He took that company to another level. We are so proud that you are one of our classmates.”
Hagman said he is an advocate of the agency. He said Stockton taught him to be ambitious and not to give up, and he wants to send that message to today’s students.
“I’m here to make sure things are also good for the next generation,” he said.
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