Salem State U. Receives Largest Cash Gift Ever Made to a Mass. State University

Special to the Journal

Cummings Foundation has donated $10 million to Salem State University’s School of Education to support  programs and initiatives aimed at diversifying, strengthening, and sustaining the next generation of educators. The gift represents the largest cash contribution ever made in the history of the nine Massachusetts state universities.   

“This generous contribution is an investment in our students, our campus goals and the entire region, and I am exceptionally grateful to Cummings Foundation,” said President John D. Keenan. “I could not be more proud of what Cummings Foundation’s support says about the high-quality academic programs Salem State offers. I am also thrilled that this contribution marks the second time in as many years that Salem State has broken the record for receiving the largest cash gift in Massachusetts state university history. This distinction speaks volumes about the depth of support for our students and the work being done across campus.” 

With Cummings Foundation’s support, the School of Education will greatly expand its programming, including: building on efforts to diversify the educator pipeline for all teacher license areas, such as the cohort-based Educator-Scholars of Color initiative; creating a center for professional learning aimed at retaining teachers and school leaders, including support for developing anti-racist and equity-focused instructional and leadership practices; preparing educators to meet student needs beyond PreK-12 education, such as early childhood literacy through the Jumpstart initiative; and supporting pathways to licensure for hundreds of emergency-licensed teachers in the region; among other efforts.

“We are delighted to deepen our partnership with Salem State University, and in doing so, support the vibrancy of the North Shore,” said Bill Cummings, founder of Cummings Foundation and commercial real estate firm Cummings Properties. “Salem State is at the heart of ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to advance themselves, their families and their communities. It is also a major contributor to workforce development in the MetroNorth region.” 

Salem State University’s School of Education graduates frequently go on to serve as teachers in Massachusetts Gateway Cities with increasingly diverse student populations, including nearby Lynn, Salem, Revere, and Peabody, among others throughout the Commonwealth. The university will utilize Cummings Foundation’s contribution to build an infrastructure that is even more responsive to the long-term and emerging workforce needs of these and other area school districts.

“The impact of this historic gift will be significant and far-reaching, paying lasting dividends to the school districts in which our students go on to serve,” said Dr. Joseph Cambone, dean of the School of Education. “The COVID-19 pandemic has severely harmed an already fragile educator pipeline on the North Shore. We are exceptionally grateful to Cummings Foundation for this generous commitment at such a crucial time.”

To recognize the university’s continued partnership with Cummings Foundation, Salem State will name its school of education, the university’s founding program, after alumnus James L. (Jamie) McKeown ’77, establishing the McKeown School of Education. The naming celebrates the legacy of McKeown, a Salem State alumnus, former Cummings Properties president and dedicated community leader who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 41.  

“Jamie would be astonished to know that his school, which he had so many fond memories of, is now named after him. To know that educators, and future educators, will greatly benefit from the Cummings’ generosity is just overwhelming to my family and me,” said Denise McKeown, Jamie’s widow. 

Jamie McKeown received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Salem State University in 1977 and went on to become a dynamic leader in the North Shore community. Prior to his tragic passing in 1996, he had a distinguished career at Cummings Properties where he grew from leasing agent in 1979 to company president in 1990. In July 2014, Cummings Foundation named the James L. McKeown Memorial Plaza on Salem State’s North Campus in Jamie’s memory through a $1 million gift and has since also provided generous support to the university’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. This latest Cummings Foundation gift furthers McKeown’s legacy at Salem State by supporting educators and future educators and strengthening the communities in which they serve.  

The gift was made possible through Cummings Foundation’s Affiliated College philanthropic initiative. Salem State joins five other institutions that are beneficiaries of commitments of at least $10 million each from Cummings: Tufts University, Endicott College, Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Roger Williams University, and University of Global Health Equity, in Rwanda.  

“The Salem State University Foundation deeply appreciates Cummings Foundation’s investment in our students, and by extension, the students they go on to educate as teachers and school leaders,” said Annalisa Di Palma, newly elected chair of the Salem State University Foundation, Inc. “An endowment fund of this magnitude reflects a true and unwavering commitment to the students of Salem State and the region, who will benefit from this commitment for generations to come.”  

Established as Salem Normal School in 1854, Salem State has been preparing educators for the workforce for 168 years. Of the approximately 1,000 students enrolled in The McKeown School of Education, one-third are undergraduates and over 70 percent are pursuing PK-12 educator licensure. Eighty-five percent of the university’s alumni live and work in the North Shore region, and 24 percent of its living alumni have degrees in education.  

“Our role is to work hand-in-hand with the school districts in our region to ensure they have the professionals needed to give their students the education they deserve,” said Dr. Nicole Harris, associate dean of the School of Education. “Cummings Foundation’s gift will transform the way we partner to address some of the most pressing problems of the high-need districts that we serve, and it will allow us to do so in a way that is sustainable. This donation will truly touch countless lives.”   The McKeown School of Education offers a wide range of academic offerings that prepare students to make a difference in education. The school’s academic and licensure programs include: Early Education and Care, Early Childhood Education, Educational Studies, Elementary Education, English as a Second Language, Moderate Special Needs, Secondary English, Secondary History, Secondary Mathematics, Secondary Spanish, Physical Education, Library Media Studies, School Counseling, School Adjustment Counseling, Reading Specialist, Education Leadership (Principal/Assistant Principal) and Higher Education Student Affairs. Please visit this link for more information

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