Salem State University’s Board of Trustees has voted to recommend John D. Keenan to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) as the university’s 14th president.
The vote concludes a five-month search that drew 106 applicants from 37 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three international candidates. The recommendation is subject to final approval by the BHE, and a vote is expected before the end of June.
John D. Keenan, JD, currently serves as general counsel and vice president for administration at Salem State University. He is responsible for the university’s day-to-day operations in support of its academic mission, overseeing human resources and equal opportunity, capital planning and facilities, information technology, risk and asset management, and university police. He is a lifelong Salem resident, proud product of Salem Public Schools, and first-generation college graduate. Mr. Keenan represented the Seventh Essex District in the Massachusetts State Legislature from 2005 to 2014 and was a leading proponent of gaining university status for Salem State in 2010. Prior to his election, he served as an assistant district attorney in Essex County and was a member of that office’s first Domestic Violence Unit. Mr. Keenan also served in the administrations of Mayor Neil Harrington and Mayor Stanley Usovicz as Salem city solicitor. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Suffolk University Law School. Mr. Keenan’s full biography is included below.
“Throughout our extensive search and interview process, we sought a candidate who most exemplified the characteristics put forth in our presidential leadership profile at the start of this search,” said Paul Mattera, chair of Salem State University’s Board of Trustees, who also served as a member of the presidential search committee. “Among a number of characteristics crucial to building on Salem State’s momentum, we felt strongly that the university’s next president should bring a strategic focus, a commitment to academic excellence and student success, and the ability to act as a strong external representative.”
Following its announcement of finalists earlier this month, three candidates visited campus for interviews and open forums with faculty, staff, students, volunteer boards and civic leaders, and the Salem State University Board of Trustees, among others. The forums were widely attended by members of the campus community. A fourth finalist withdrew from consideration prior to his campus visit.
The search for Salem State University’s 14th president closely adhered to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s Guidelines and Procedures for the Search, Selection, Appointment and Removal of State University and Community College Presidents. The finalists were identified by a 14-member presidential search committee that included representatives of various constituencies on campus and throughout the Salem State community, as well as the BHE. The committee retained Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm that specializes in higher education, to assist with the search. The search was launched in January after President Patricia Maguire Meservey announced her plans to retire after a decade of leadership.
More information about Salem State University’s presidential search can be found at salemstate.edu/presidential-search.
About John D. Keenan, JD
A lifelong resident of Salem and former Massachusetts state representative, John Keenan was one of the lead proponents in gaining “university” status for Salem State in 2010. John was also the lead sponsor of the bill providing sabbatical parity for all state university faculty. A proud product of Salem Public Schools and first-generation-to college, John is a cum laude graduate of Harvard College (Economics) and Suffolk University Law School where he served as Lead Articles Editor on the Law Review. Suffolk faculty recognized John with the prestigious Leo J. Memorial Award as the student who most advanced the civic and professional responsibilities of a lawyer. In 2015, John attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education Institute for Educational Management.
As state representative John developed extensive expertise in public construction projects helping to deliver $290 million in capital funding for Salem projects including the SSU Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons, J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center, Salem MBTA Station and the Thaddeus Buczko Probate Court. He was also the leading proponent of the billion dollar Footprint Power redevelopment of Salem Harbor Station, the largest project in Salem’s almost 400 year history. At Salem State, John utilized this expertise to help fund and recently complete the magnificent Sophia Gordon Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Prior to his election as state representative, John served as an assistant district attorney in Essex County and was a member of that office’s first Domestic Violence Unit. John served in the administrations of Mayor Neil Harrington and Mayor Stanley Usovicz as Salem city solicitor. John joined Salem State in 2014, and as the university’s inaugural General Counsel, he is responsible for oversight of all legal matters. With his background in domestic violence, John helps lead SSU’s Title IX team that deals with both the prevention and investigation of sexual assaults on campus. As a result of John’s efforts, in January 2017, Salem State hosted the National Center for Campus Public Safety’s Training on Trauma-Informed Sexual Assault Investigation and Adjudication. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also participated to bring attention to this national problem.
At SSU, John is responsible for the university’s day-to-day operations in support of its academic mission. He has oversight of capital planning and facilities, human resources and equal opportunity, information technology, risk and asset management, and university police. Under John’s leadership the university just completed the North Campus Precinct Study which provides a blueprint for SSU’s next decade of capital projects. Lastly, he oversees the maintenance of appropriate internal controls consistent with the rules and regulations of the state and the board of trustees. John is an active participant on campus being a panelist on issues such as climate change and freedom of speech. John welcomes the opportunity to advise aspiring public servants and students interested in pursuing law school. John is also a member and active participant in both the New England Council of Counsel and the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
John resides in Salem with his wife, Kara McLaughlin, and their two children, Aidan and Erin. John’s community service includes being past president of the Salem Education Foundation. He presently serves both on the Salem Award Foundation and on the advisory board of the Anti-Defamation League. An avid bike rider in the summer, John has participated in the Pan Mass Challenge for the last quarter century raising over $160,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.