Reverend Arthur T. Gerald ’12H first joined the Salem State community in 1972 as the advisor to the Afro-American Society. The following year, he became the director of the minority affairs program, with the mission of helping to recruit additional students of color. It quickly became clear that bringing students of color to campus wasn’t enough — the school also needed to provide resources to help them succeed on campus. Arthur’s position was shifted from student life to academic affairs, and the focus became retention and support. He and his colleagues helped develop a summer program for incoming students and created what was then called the Learning Center — now the Center for Academic Excellence — to ensure that every student not only had a place at Salem State, but also had the support they needed to thrive.
Arthur remained an important voice for inclusivity from the moment he stepped foot on campus until he retired from his role as associate dean in 2010. In 2009, he and his wife Henrietta ’75 endowed the Arthur T. Gerald, Jr. Scholarship Fund to continue his work of helping students of diverse backgrounds attend, succeed and realize their dreams at Salem State. Students like Keyla Romero-Velasquez ’23.
Already the first in her family to graduate high school, Keyla is determined to earn her college degree. “I pay my own bills and buy my own food. For a while, I was working 30 to 40 hours every week at Starbucks on top of going to class, but I had to stop because it was taking a toll on my mental health,” says Keyla. “I want the Geralds to know their contribution to my education is deeply appreciated.”
Making the decision to support student scholarship was simple for Arthur. “I’m indebted to all those who helped me get where I am in life,” he says. “And as I have been helped, so must I help others.” For her part, Keyla is also looking to pay this gift forward: “Once I graduate, I want to help heal and uplift the communities that raised me.”