"The crest is history," Wagner said.
It is history, too, in North Jersey, where Rutgers University on Monday formally acquired seven medical institutions that were part of the troubled UMDNJ, whose leadership was accused of financial mismanagement and political cronyism.
Effected by the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Restructuring Act that the legislature approved last year, the merger has been touted as the largest in the history of American higher education.
The act additionally gives greater autonomy to Rutgers' campuses in Camden and Newark, which will have their own oversight boards.
"It's going to grow and expand what is already a very, very good university and today I think is finally on the path to being one of America's great research institutions," Gov. Christie told hundreds at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick.
The school is one of the UMDNJ campuses that Rutgers took over, a cause Christie had championed vigorously for the last 18 months. Doing this was not easy, he said.
Amid the euphoria Monday there was little mention of the missteps and political wrangling that has bedeviled Rutgers in recent months, including an abuse scandal that forced a shake-up of the athletics department and, just last week, a controversial legislative proposal to abolish one of the university's two governing boards.
The overarching goal is to make the university into a hub of medical research, capitalizing on the state's vast pharmaceutical industry.
Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi said the reconfigured Rutgers already has more than $700 million in research grants, an increase of about 50 percent, and is now among the nation's top 20 for funding.
"If we don't make more of out of this than just adding pieces together," Barchi said, "we've failed."
Barchi, hired last year to oversee the merger, is also entrusted with the task of coming up with a broader plan for what the university, which now has 33 schools and 65,000 students, will become in the future. His plan is still several months from delivery.
Rowan, founded in 1923 as Glassboro Normal School, or teachers college, with just 236 students, on Monday also became New Jersey's second officially designated comprehensive public research university. It now has 12,000 students at three campuses that its president, Ali Houshmand, hopes to grow to 25,000 over the next decade.
The osteopathic college in Stratford, founded in 1978, has 600 medical students and 200 pursuing masters and doctorates in biomedical sciences.
"The research triangle is now going to be Stratford, Camden, and Glassboro," State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) told a crowd of about 500 who gathered Monday morning at the School of Osteopathic Medicine, where the old UMDNJ crest had been replaced with the lighted-torch symbol of Rowan, in corridors, parking lots, on the outside of buildings - even on a billboard on the White Horse Pike.
"Brace yourself for impact!" the billboard reads.
Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, dean of the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM), said it was unlikely patients treated there would notice much different immediately about it.
"But long-term, the changes are huge," said Cavalieri, who described himself as "ecstatic" about the merger.
For starters, Cavalieri said, SOM becomes a partner with Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, which opened last year in Camden. There are also plans for a collaborative Rutgers-Rowan college of health sciences, with its own campus in Camden.
"This will give us opportunities for research and collaboration we never had before," Cavalieri said, "and it will be a shot in the arm for South Jersey."
Cavalieri, a gerontologist who became SOM's dean seven years ago, said the merger also frees his school from UMDNJ, which he noted was "under a cloud."
What's more, he said, Rowan has become only the second university in the United States serving as home to both an osteopathic and conventional allopathic medical school. (The other is the University of Michigan.)
While their forms of teaching and treatment are quite similar, Cavalieri said, osteopathic medicine takes a "more holistic approach," and its practitioners sometimes manipulate bones and vertebrae.
"And because of our emphasis on the whole patient," he said, "we are more likely to produce doctors who go into primary care, such as family and internal medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, and obstetrics-gynecology."
These are fields of medicine that are already seeing shortages of practitioners, he said, and which are likely to be in even greater demand because the Affordable Care Act will give medical access to millions of newly insured Americans.
He said that Cooper University Hospital in Camden and SOM together receive about $25 million in research grants from such entities as the National Institute of Health, and that the two could expect to be receiving $100 million in another decade.
"This merger is a game- changer," he said.
Contact David O'Reilly at 856-779-3841 or email@example.com or @doreillyinq on Twitter.
Staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed this article, which also includes information from the Associated Press.