Salem State University announced today (April 2, 2013) the selection of two groundbreaking philanthropists, an internationally renowned Afghani human rights activist, and the nation’s Under Secretary of Education as its 2013 commencement speakers. Honorary degrees will be conferred on each speaker as well as on two community leaders.
School of Graduate Studies Commencement
Thursday, May 16, 4 pm—Rockett Arena, Richard B. O'Keefe Complex
Speaker and honorary degree recipient
Martha J. Kanter
United States Under Secretary of Education
Martha J. Kanter was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the nation’s Under Secretary of Education in April 2009 and was confirmed by the Senate in June of that year. Kanter reports directly to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and is responsible for the oversight of policies, activities and programs related to postsecondary education, adult and career-technical education, federal student aid, and five White House initiatives. The latter encompass Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, educational excellence for Hispanics, historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.
As part of President Obama’s goal for the U.S. to have “the best educated, most competitive work force in the world by 2020”—as measured by the proportion of college graduates over the next decade—Under Secretary Kanter is charged with planning and policy programs that spur education, economic growth and social prosperity. Improving college access and affordability, advancing educational quality and working on initiatives that will result in more college students not just enrolling—but completing their degrees—are components of President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative with which Martha Kanter is charged.
She has begun a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor that recently announced the first $500 million of a $2 billion federal investment to increase quality, graduation and employment opportunities for community college students. During her tenure the Direct Student Loan program was successfully implemented, resulting in a 50 percent increase in college enrollment. As a result, nine million students today are Pell Grant recipients.
Under Secretary Kanter holds an EdD in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco, as well as honorary degrees from five institutions of higher education. She began her career as an alternative high school teacher in New York and Massachusetts, later establishing the first program for students with learning disabilities at San Jose City College in California. After serving as dean, vice president and president of several California community colleges, Martha Kanter was chosen to head the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation, as chancellor in 2003.
Among numerous honors and awards, Under Secretary Kanter has received the Excellence in Education Award from the National Organization for Women’s California chapter and was named Woman of the Year for Santa Clara County by the American Association of University Women. In 2011, she was appointed to the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization.
College of Health and Human Services and Bertolon School of Business Commencement
Saturday, May 18, 10 am—Rockett Arena, Richard B. O'Keefe Complex
Speakers and honorary degree recipients
William S. Cummings
Real Estate Developer, Philanthropist
Raised in Medford, Bill Cummings has throughout his life centered most of his personal, professional and philanthropic activities in his native state of Massachusetts. A graduate of Tufts University, where he has served as a charter trustee, he began a sales and marketing career with Vick Chemical Company (VapoRub) in North Carolina, but soon moved back home to work for Gorton’s of Gloucester.
Bill then purchased a
very old food products manufacturing firm in Medford and substantially
developed it into Old Medford Foods, Inc. His subsequent development of its
real estate would be the beginning of a long and highly successful career in
commercial real estate. Since 1969, when he founded the eponymous Cummings
Properties, LLC, Bill Cummings has purchased, built and managed extensive
commercial real estate holdings in eastern Massachusetts, including the
award-winning Cummings Center office and technology park in Beverly. The firm
is considered one of the most financially solid real estate companies in the country, and currently operates more than 10 million square feet of its own commercial space in 10 metropolitan Boston communities.
Committed to giving back, Bill Cummings and his wife, Joyce, founded Cummings Foundation, Inc. in 1986, and New Horizons, a not-for-profit assisted and independent living community in Woburn and Marlborough. More recently, they created two new grant-funding organizations, Institute for World Justice, LLC and OneWorld Boston, Inc. The latter has provided a grant to Salem State to help the university establish a Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and bring the resources, programs and relationships of the Holocaust Center Boston North into this new center on campus.
Although the Cummings’ primary philanthropic focus is on supporting local organizations, they also have a strong interest in Rwanda. During a January 2012 trip there, they recognized how much good their philanthropy could accomplish in this country still recovering from the horrific genocide in 1994. They pledged significant support to Kigali Genocide Memorial and Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, which educates and cares for 500 of Rwanda’s most vulnerable youth, many of whom were orphaned during the genocide.
Bill and Joyce Cummings have the distinction of being the first Massachusetts residents to sign on to Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet’s ‘Giving Pledge,’ a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
Cummings Foundation’s support of Tufts’ veterinary school has been significant and, in 2004, the school was renamed Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Bill Cummings was awarded an honorary DPS (doctor of public service) degree from Tufts University in May 2006, and was named one of the 50 most influential Bostonians by The Boston Business Journal in 2011 and 2012.
Joyce M. Cummings
Philanthropist, Community Volunteer
Joyce M. Cummings was raised in Alabama, making her way to Boston after college for a one-year internship in dietetics at Massachusetts General Hospital. The internship ultimately led to a full-time job at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where she served as a professional dietician. She met her future husband, Bill, in the hospital’s kitchen.
They raised a family in Winchester and began a habit of charitable giving and community service that would become the hallmark of their lives. As Bill Cummings built his real estate business, Joyce Cummings devoted her time to local causes, serving as a longtime member of the board of trustees of Winchester Community Music School and as president of Winchester’s En Ka Society.
Joyce’s volunteer service has extended beyond the town in which she resides. Elected a trustee for the Corporation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, she also served as a director of Hospice Care, Inc. of Stoneham, and is a founding trustee of New Horizons at Choate Retirement Community in Woburn.
In 1986, Bill and Joyce Cummings formed Cummings Foundation, Inc. for the purpose of giving back to area communities. Since 1996, the Foundation has provided more than $2 million in scholarship aid to hundreds of local students and provided key support to the Woburn Boys and Girls Club, Supportive Living, Inc., North Shore YMCA, and Beverly Hospital, among hundreds of other organizations. In June 2013, the Foundation will announce a total of $10 million in grants to 100 local area nonprofits.
Inspired to provide philanthropic support to Rwanda following a 2012 visit, Joyce and Bill Cummings are supporting two Partners in Health hospitals there, and funding the building of Rwanda’s first cancer infusion center. They will return to Rwanda this August for the opening of the center. The Cummings anticipate providing additional support to Rwanda in an effort to help it reach its goal of being self-supporting.
A visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in 2009 inspired Joyce and Bill Cummings to think more broadly about how education might help prevent such horrors from occurring again and in 2012 Cummings Foundation gifted Salem State with a grant to help establish a Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Commencement
Saturday, May 18, 3 pm—Rockett Arena, Richard B. O'Keefe Complex
Speaker and honorary degree recipient
Sima Samar, MD
Chair, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
Dr. Sima Samar was born in Afghanistan with two distinct disadvantages: she was female and she was a member of the Hazara tribe, one of the country’s most persecuted. Despite the disadvantages she faced at birth—and the challenges she would continue to confront throughout her life—Sima Samar has not only succeeded, but become a powerful international voice for human rights.
In 1979, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. By the time it departed in 1988, Samar had lost her husband, his three brothers and more than 60 members of her family. She had also obtained a medical degree from Kabul University Medical College, and begun practicing at a government hospital in Kabul. Fearing for her safety, she ultimately fled to a remote area of Central Afghanistan, later traveling to Pakistan for her son’s education.
Upset by the poor quality of health care at the Mission Hospital of Quetta, where she worked, Sima Samar founded her own hospital for the care of refugee women and children. The nonprofit, nongovernmental and nonpolitical Shuhada Organization and its Shuhada Clinic have subsequently become models for health care in developing countries and a testament to the power of one woman with tenacity and a dream.
At present, the Shuhada Organization operates 12 clinics and three hospitals along with training programs for community health workers, nurses and birth attendants. With her focus squarely on the sick, the poor and the marginalized, Dr. Samar’s organization has expanded into education and self-empowerment as well. The organization currently oversees 71 schools for boys and girls and 34 for Afghan refugees, while also offering computer, English and literacy programs for adult women.
The establishment of shelters for vulnerable females dealing with violence and abuse offers a safe haven where women receive—in addition to food and shelter—the tools necessary for future self-sufficiency, education, jobs training, and programs to teach women how to generate income.
Dr. Samar was one of only two female cabinet ministers in Afghanistan’s interim administration, during which she established the first-ever Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs. She currently serves as chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Among numerous awards recognizing her worldwide activism on behalf of health and human rights, Dr. Sima Samar has received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award® (2004), the Order of Canada (2009), the Mother Theresa International Memorial Award for Social Justice (2012), and Sweden’s Right Livelihood (the alternative Nobel Prize) Award (2012) for “outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people.”