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Salem State University Launches the Largest Fundraising Campaign in Massachusetts State University History

 On May 6, 2023, Salem State University announced the public launch of a $75 million fundraising campaign, the largest philanthropic endeavor in the history of Massachusetts’ nine state universities. 

The Meet the Moment™ campaign combines deep investments in student success with the revitalization of Salem State’s campus, positioning the university to meet the needs of its students today and the North Shore region for decades to come. 

At the May 6 public launch event, about 400 students, alumni, donors, and community members came together at Salem State’s O’Keefe Complex to learn more about the goals of Meet the Moment™, which are all centered around student success. Salem State President John D. Keenan announced that the university is already more than 50 percent of the way to its $75 million fundraising goal, having raised $40 million to date. 

“Members of our community on- and off-campus know that the future of this region, from the opportunities we offer to the vitality of the workforce and its civic leaders, rely on a strong Salem State. Our students go on to become the professionals that our region needs: teachers, scientists, nurses, business leaders, social workers, public servants, and more,” said Keenan. “We put students first in every decision and dollar we invest in Salem State, and our campaign priorities demonstrate that commitment.”  

Meet the Moment™ is the second and largest comprehensive campaign in Salem State’s almost 170-year history. The efforthas been quietly gaining momentum since 2020 when the Salem State University Foundation, Inc. and the Salem State UniversityBoard of Trustees voted unanimously to support it.

“Building partnerships in support of this campaign has shown us just how much enthusiasm there is in our community for Salem State’s mission,” said Cheryl Webster Crounse, executive director of the Salem State University Foundation, Inc., and vice president of advancement. “Salem State is fueling the workforce of the North Shore, and we take great pride in our commitment to engage and support any student who has aspirations of receiving a higher education degree. We know they will go on to do great things for our community and strengthen the region as a result.”

“Salem State faculty and staff go to great lengths to support students, and we’ve seen extraordinary collaboration across campus in establishing the campaign’s priorities and funding opportunities,” said Ryan Fisher, professor of biology and member of the Campaign Steering Committee. “The philanthropic support we receive through Meet the Moment™ builds on our academic strength and provides opportunities for research and critical resources and equipment that help to aid our scholarly work.”

Early momentum following record-breaking gifts

The $40 million raised to-date includes two recent gifts which broke records as the largest cash gifts to a Massachusetts state university: a $10 million gift to the McKeown School of Education from Cummings Foundation in August 2022 to strengthen and diversify the educator pipeline; and a $6 million gift from Kim Gassett-Schiller ’83, ’18H and Philip Schiller in 2021 to create Viking Completion Grants, which have helped 156 seniors overcome their final financial hurdle to earning their degree.

“Receiving a Viking Completion Grant lifted the stress and burden of trying to find the funds to complete my studies on my limited income,” said Diana Baez ’22. “I plan to advance in my career and continue to be an example for my children. I want them to be proud of my academic accomplishments and know the importance of being well prepared and educated to launch a career, face life’s challenges and be an engaged community member.”

About the campaign priorities 

Student Financial Assistance

As the funding model for state universities has evolved, with a decline in state support causing tuition and fees to climb, increased investments in student support strategies likescholarships, Viking Completion Grants and the Student Emergency Fund create access and opportunity for current and future students. The campaign closes the financial gap, which is on average $3,500 for a student, ensuring they can take full advantage of their education without the burden of heavy employment schedules or excessive debt, setting them up to be strong contributors to the vitality of the North Shore and beyond. Within the graduating class of 2023 alone, 218 students have received direct financial support from members of Salem State’s philanthropic community. 

“When I was a student in 1983, students paid 30 percent of the cost to attend the university, with the Commonwealth covering the balance,” explains Kim Gassett-Schiller ’83, ’18H. “Today’s students pay 70 percent. The Meet the Moment™ campaign will dramatically ease financial hurdles and give hard-working students a bridge to help them earn their degree.”

Student Success

The campaign will expand peer-to-peer mentoring and grow the number of success coaches serving students with distinct needs, including first-generation students and student veterans. The university’s commitment to meeting students where they areprovides them with the spaces and programs, academic and college navigation skills, social support, networking, and mentoring that enhances the college experience. 


By modernizing facilities and unifying the campus’s physical footprint, SSU BOLD embodies a vision for Salem State that is more collaborative, more student-centered and better positioned to prepare students for success. State-of-the-art laboratories, including nursing and occupational therapy simulation labs, will energize science and healthcare programs. As a result, the next generation of highly qualified nursing students will have the advantage of spending up to 30 percent of their required clinical hours in hands-on experiences in simulation labs, preparing them to thrive in a 21st century economy.

Unrestricted Support

Increased support for flexible unrestricted resources and emerging needs are critical to meeting unexpected strategic or entrepreneurial opportunities. These funds support a wide range of activities and programs: from Student Emergency Fund grantsand needs that address food and housing insecurity to access to tools and technology that replicate real-world working environments. Unrestricted funding is crucial to directly supporting students, supplementing financial aid, and fueling efforts around civic engagement, inclusive excellence and the university’s preparation to thrive as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Minority Serving Institution (MSI). 


Community leadership

The campaign is funded by the Salem State University Foundation, Inc., with strategic support from the volunteer Campaign Steering Committee led by co-chairs Midge DeSimone ’76, of Swampscott, former trustee and former member of the Salem State University Foundation, Inc. board of directors; Kim Gassett-Schiller ’83, ’18H, of Half Moon Bay, California, member of the Salem State University Foundation, Inc. board of directors; Nicole Goggin ’14, ’17G, of Peabody, former member of Bertolon School of Business (BSB) Alumni Network board of directors; Donna Katzman ’78, ’98G, of Marblehead, former member of Salem State University Foundation, Inc. board of directors; and Elliot Katzman ’78, of Marblehead, former trustee and member of the BSB Advisory Board. All committee members serve as advocates for the university and campaign and are committed to providing opportunities for current and future students. 

“With more than 80 percent of our alumni staying in the region after graduation, Salem State is a critical contributor to the intellectual and economic vitality of the North Shore,” says Nicole Goggin ’14, ’17G. “As a public university, our student body reflects the rich diversity of our communities, and this campaign is our moment to evolve our programs and services to help students with different goals and backgrounds navigate their academic journey.”

“The Salem State University Foundation Inc. is proud to support the work of the campaign and thrilled to witness the immediate impact that philanthropy has made on the campus and the students,” said Annalisa Di Palma, chair of the foundation board of directors. “We call on our entire university community to support the Meet the Moment™ campaign as we build on our strength and continue to invest in student success. As a proud daughter and sister of Salem State graduates, and a passionate North Shore community member, my husband Dino and I recognize Salem State’s position as a powerful force for upward mobility and equity in the region especially for those students who have historically been underrepresented in higher education.”  

To learn more about the Meet the Moment™ campaign, visit

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