Salem State University Trustees Recommend John D. Keenan as the Institution’s 14th President

Salem State University’s Board of Trustees has voted to recommend John D. Keenan to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) as the university’s 14th president.

The vote concludes a five-month search that drew 106 applicants from 37 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three international candidates. The recommendation is subject to final approval by the BHE, and a vote is expected before the end of June.

John D. Keenan, JD, currently serves as general counsel and vice president for administration at Salem State University. He is responsible for the university’s day-to-day operations in support of its academic mission, overseeing human resources and equal opportunity, capital planning and facilities, information technology, risk and asset management, and university police. He is a lifelong Salem resident, proud product of Salem Public Schools, and first-generation college graduate. Mr. Keenan represented the Seventh Essex District in the Massachusetts State Legislature from 2005 to 2014 and was a leading proponent of gaining university status for Salem State in 2010. Prior to his election, he served as an assistant district attorney in Essex County and was a member of that office’s first Domestic Violence Unit. Mr. Keenan also served in the administrations of Mayor Neil Harrington and Mayor Stanley Usovicz as Salem city solicitor. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Suffolk University Law School. Mr. Keenan’s full biography is included below.

“Throughout our extensive search and interview process, we sought a candidate who most exemplified the characteristics put forth in our presidential leadership profile at the start of this search,” said Paul Mattera, chair of Salem State University’s Board of Trustees, who also served as a member of the presidential search committee. “Among a number of characteristics crucial to building on Salem State’s momentum, we felt strongly that the university’s next president should bring a strategic focus, a commitment to academic excellence and student success, and the ability to act as a strong external representative.”

Following its announcement of finalists earlier this month, three candidates visited campus for interviews and open forums with faculty, staff, students, volunteer boards and civic leaders, and the Salem State University Board of Trustees, among others. The forums were widely attended by members of the campus community. A fourth finalist withdrew from consideration prior to his campus visit.

The search for Salem State University’s 14th president closely adhered to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s Guidelines and Procedures for the Search, Selection, Appointment and Removal of State University and Community College Presidents. The finalists were identified by a 14-member presidential search committee that included representatives of various constituencies on campus and throughout the Salem State community, as well as the BHE. The committee retained Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm that specializes in higher education, to assist with the search. The search was launched in January after President Patricia Maguire Meservey announced her plans to retire after a decade of leadership.

More information about Salem State University’s presidential search can be found at

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