When Edmond G. Bertrand ’23G sings the national anthem at Salem State University’s commencement ceremony on May 21, he will be singing it for a special guest in the audience – his 82-year-old mother.
“My mother was my first choir director,” says Bertrand, who began singing at the age of 4. “My mother had always wanted me to do something big, like sing for the Red Sox, or the Bruins, or Patriots. She always wanted to see me do that, and I saw an opportunity here at Salem State.”
Bertrand, of Wenham, has earned many titles in his life: professional singer, businessman, master of political science, father, and student. He is now finishing a Master’s in Business Administration at Salem State while battling a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer.
“It was a kick in the head,” Bertrand says of the Stage 4 cancer diagnosis he received in January 2021, about halfway through his academic journey at Salem State. “I had this nice little plan, I was getting my degree.”
Bertrand did not let the diagnosis stop him from finishing his MBA. He has continued his coursework at Salem State while working part-time as a consultant and traveling to Boston for cancer treatment each week. He is currently participating in a clinical trial at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute under the care of Dr. Benjamin Schlechter, who Bertrand refers to as “an amazing human” and “probably the best doctor on earth” to treat cancerous neuroendocrine tumors.
Persistence and dedication to learning have shaped much of Bertrand’s life. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1989 with a bachelor’s in political science and went on to earn a master’s in political science at Harvard University in 1996. He worked in business communications and consulting for 20 years before starting his MBA at Salem State in 2019.
“I don't love business for its own sake. I'm not out to make money, I never have been,” Bertrand says. “I love the adventure of being with people and traveling the world and seeing new things.”
Inspired by his father Gerard A. Bertrand, who served as president of The Massachusetts Audubon Society from 1980-1999, Ed Bertrand’s passion for business lies in solving problems for non-profit organizations.
“A lot of non-profits end up getting sidetracked. They end up doing stuff that is not relevant to their core mission,” Bertrand says. “I figured out that I have a happy talent for looking at what a non-profit is doing on the ground and aligning that with what they say their mission statement is that they actually do.”
At Salem State, Bertrand is taking courses in business analysis, marketing and psychology. Some of his favorite classes so far were taught in marketing by Professor Nisreen Bahnan and Professor Jp James, as well as an industrial-organizational psychology course taught by Professor Hinda Sterling.
“I'm particularly grateful for the support that I've had from Dr. Nisreen Bahnan,” says Bertrand. “She's been amazingly helpful and her guidance has been really appreciated.”
On May 21, Bertrand will take the stage to sing the national anthem at Salem State’s commencement ceremony. While working in business has paid the bills, “singing is what I do to keep my soul happy,” he says.
Bertrand perfected his basso profondo voice over the years, learning from prestigious vocal coaches and choir directors such as the late Cleveland Howard, a music professor at UNH, and the late Robert Honeysucker, a Cambridge-based, internationally renowned bass-baritone who Bertrand says “had the voice of God.”
In attendance on May 21 will be Bertrand’s 79-year-old father, 82-year-old mother, and eldest daughter Jeanise, who followed in her father’s footsteps by earning a bachelor’s in political science at Salem State in 2014. She was elected to Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee in 2013.
“Jeanise is an extraordinary, extraordinary young woman, and I'm really proud of her,” Bertrand says of his daughter. “Of all the things I've done in my whole life, being her father is the most successful thing I've ever done. There is nothing else that I will accomplish in my lifetime that will be as good as having raised her to be a good adult.”
With his loved ones in the audience, Bertrand aspires to give a memorable performance of the national anthem at Salem State.
“I want the audience to think about it, and to hear it, and to say, ‘oh yeah, that's the way it's supposed to be performed,’” Bertrand says of the anthem. “It's such a tough song…It's also so joyous in so many ways.”
Asked what words of wisdom he would impart on Salem State graduates this year, Bertrand tells the Class of 2022 to remain curious and not focus on material things.
“Look at the world with the most curious, most open heart that you can. Don't forget that nothing you buy, you can ever take with you,” he says. “The things that you take with you are your memories, your relationships. Go forward with an open heart, love people, you know?”