A year after the passing of State Senator Frederick E. Berry on November 13, 2018, a new effort is underway to commemorate his legacy. With a $200,000 state appropriation, community and university leaders are working to build the Frederick E. Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement at Salem State University (The Berry Institute).
The appropriation for the institute was sponsored by State Senator (Second Essex) Joan Lovely and State Representative (7th Essex District-Salem) Paul Tucker following advocacy from local community members.
The institute will be overseen by Salem State University’s Center for Civic Engagement. An advisory board has been formed to carry out its mission: to engage and inspire a diverse community of learners to pursue careers in political and public service, while also convening public and private sector leaders to discuss and move forward issues of significance to Massachusetts.
"Fred's family and I are so pleased that his former colleagues in the legislature, President Keenan and the University community have come together to honor and recognize his legacy through the creation of the Frederick E. Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement,” said Senator Berry’s wife, Gayle Berry. “Fred was doggedly committed throughout his career to helping those less fortunate. He brought honor and fairness to his work every day. Passing this legacy on to a new generation of community leaders may be his greatest professional accomplishment, which is why this Institute is so moving to his family and me."
The new non-partisan institute in Senator Berry’s name has already begun its planning. At the first advisory board meeting on November 1, members discussed hosting political discussions and debates; supporting students with career interests in politics and public service; creating week-long institutes for students to hone their political knowledge and skills; and developing podcasts to broadcast current issues, policies, and interviews with political candidates.
“It has been an honor to succeed Majority Leader Fred Berry in the Senate, and I was pleased to secure funding to establish the Fredrick E. Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement at Salem State University in his memory,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “Fred championed public service as a Vista volunteer, Peabody City Councilor, nonprofit leader, and State Senator. He helped those in need and promoted civility in political discourse. The Frederick E. Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement will highlight those values that Fred held most dear and pass them on to future generations of Salem State students.”
State Representative (7th Essex District-Salem) Paul Tucker said, “I am pleased to be a part of establishing the Frederick E. Berry Institute at Salem State. The legacy that Senator Berry left will continue to educate future generations and inspire new leaders to take on the many issues that we face. Salem State is uniquely positioned as the venue to establish and grow the Berry Institute on a campus where civic engagement is encouraged and supported.”
Consistent with the Center for Civic Engagement’s emphasis on political engagement, the Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement will provide additional opportunities to bring in political leaders, policymakers, and public officials, which will expand the breadth and depth of the political discourse on campus and inspire students to get involved in politics and public service.
“Senator Berry had an admirable commitment to public service,” said Salem State University President John Keenan. “I’m hopeful that this institute will give our students the tools to make a difference in their communities, whether by launching their own careers in public service or being engaged citizens.”
Salem State University has been recognized for its high rate of student voter engagement. In 2019, Salem State was named to Washington Monthly’s list of “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting 2019.” Also this year, the university learned that its 2018 mid-term election student voting rate exceeded the national average by 20 percent, and nearly doubled from its 2014 voting rate, earning a gold seal of excellence in student voter engagement by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.
“While voter engagement is one of many priorities at Salem State University, The Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement represents the intersection of politics, social action, and civic engagement and provides the opportunity to more profoundly develop the next generation of political leaders and public servants,” said Cynthia Lynch, who will serve as the institute’s executive director.
“We not only want students to be voters, but to be informed on the issues and to feel empowered to influence their communities through political engagement and public action.”
Cynthia Lynch, director, Center for Civic Engagement