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Salem State Receives Largest Cash Donation in State University History

Salem, MA – Salem State University alumna Kim Gassett-Schiller and her husband, Apple Fellow Philip Schiller, have contributed $6 million to the university. This amount represents the largest cash gift made to one of the Commonwealth’s nine state universities.

Of their gift, $5 million establishes the Viking Completion Grant Endowment. Wishing to assist undergraduate seniors in overcoming their final financial hurdle before graduation, the Schillers’ philanthropy will provide another resource to help students achieve their degree. The Viking Completion Grant Endowment will launch this year and benefit 50-75 undergraduate students every year in perpetuity.

The $1 million balance from the couple’s gift fuels additional student resources at Salem State University that the couple have long supported, including the Center for Academic Excellence and the Harold E. and Marilyn J. Gassett Fitness and Recreation Center, as well as flexible dollars that can be deployed to address emerging university priorities focusing on student support and success.

“No words could adequately describe our gratitude to Kim and Philip,” said Salem State University President John Keenan of the historic donation by the Schillers, who are both Massachusetts natives living in California. “Their gift to Salem State University is the largest ever made within the Commonwealth’s nine state university system—and it furthers their decades of generosity toward Salem State. Kim and Philip have positively shaped the lives of thousands of students; their new gift will continue this impact for generations of learners to come. We are forever appreciative of and inspired by the Schillers’ philanthropy.”

Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago added, “Kim and Philip Schiller’s generosity advances the Board of Higher Education’s top priority to level the playing field in higher education through equity and racial justice. Focusing on college success and degree attainment for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or zip code, is a critical way to maintain the state’s status as a national higher education leader. The student grants funded by the Schillers’ philanthropy will be a key ingredient in our collective efforts to expand success for residents, our economy, and society.”

The first in her family to earn a college degree, Kim graduated from Salem State University with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 1983 and made her first gift to her alma mater. It totaled one dollar. Since then, she has contributed consistently to numerous Salem State initiatives alongside Philip Schiller. Kim also served as co-chair for Salem State University’s successful 10,000 Reasons campaign from 2011 to 2016, and she received an honorary degree from the university in 2018.

“Philip and I are grateful that we are able to establish the Viking Completion Grants,” said Kim. “When we learned that some Salem State students, who achieve so much and are so close to graduating, risk dropping out for financial reasons, we had to step up. This gift will remove that risk and make earning a Salem State degree possible. We hope our gift will inspire others to support our students in any way.”

Leeanna Singleton, a 2019 alumna who benefited from a scholarship fund that Kim and Philip created in 2013, said, “I borrowed thousands of dollars in student loans and I paid my own tuition bill while I was in school. The generosity of the Gassett-Schiller family alleviated some of my financial hardships and allowed me to allocate more of my focus onto my studies. Their new support is incredible. It will help many, many students like me.”

Cheryl Crounse, executive director of the Salem State University Foundation, echoes Singleton’s thoughts. “For decades, Kim and Philip have generously given their time and treasure to help remove barriers so that thousands of students from all backgrounds can attend Salem State, thrive during their time here, and complete their education with a degree in hand,” Crounse said. “Their landmark $6 million gift not only places them firmly in the Commonwealth’s higher education history books; it also and most importantly reflects who they are: champions of quality, accessible education for every person.”


About Salem State University

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth, Salem State enrolls about 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 32 undergraduate programs and graduate programs that offer degrees in 24 fields. The university also has a continuing education division that offers both credit and non-credit programs. Known for the academic strength of its faculty, Salem State was named a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars in 2011 and for the 2016-2017 academic year. The university is designated a Top College and University by Military Advanced Education and a Best for Vets College by Military Times. Salem State proudly participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement and has shown a student voting rate well above the national average, earning the university a gold seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

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