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$10 million gift from Salem State from Cummings
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$10 million gift from Salem State from Cummings

A $10 million donation to help Salem State University support programs and initiatives aimed at diversifying, strengthening, and sustaining the next generation of educators is being celebrated as the largest cash contribution ever made to one of the nine Massachusetts state universities.

The Cummings Foundation made the donation to the school that has become a pipeline for teachers at Massachusetts Gateway cities with increasingly diverse student populations, including Lynn, Peabody, Revere and Salem on the North Shore.

“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.”

Salem State President John Keenan noted that this is the second time in as many years that the university has broken the record for receiving the largest cash gift in Massachusetts state university history.

“This generous contribution is an investment in our students, our campus goals and the entire region, and I am exceptionally grateful to Cummings Foundation,” Keenan said.

Salem State’s School of Education plans to use the money to 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 licensing for hundreds of emergency teachers in the region.

“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 high-quality education and the opportunity to advance themselves, their families and their communities.”

Salem State will name its School of Education, the university’s founding program, after alumnus James L. (Jamie) McKeown (class of ’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,” Denise McKeown, Jamie’s widow, said. “To know that educators, and future educators, will greatly benefit from the Cummings’ generosity is just overwhelming to my family and me.”

In July 2014, Cummings Foundation named the James L. McKeown Memorial Plaza on Salem State’s North Campus in McKeown’s memory through a $1 million gift.

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 licensing. 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. “This donation will truly touch countless lives.”

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