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John Keenan, JD

MA Board of Higher Education Approves Salem State's 14th President

Presidential Search Information

  • Presidential Search Committee

    After soliciting nominations from the campus community, the Board of Trustees recommended a search committee representing the diversity of Salem State University’s disciplines and community. On January 25, 2017, Salem State University’s Board of Trustees approved the below list of the search committee members, as follows: 

    • Teresa Chisholm    Trustee, Chair of the Committee
    • Robert Lutts    Trustee, Vice Chair of the Committee
    • Tyrone Brown '08    Customer Support Agent, ITS (AFSCME); Alumnus
    • Elizabeth Cabral '17    Student Trustee 
    • Joseph Cambone    Dean, School of Education (Non-unit)
    • Elisa Castillo    Assistant Dean, Wellness, Student Life (APA)
    • Gina Deschamps ‘92G    President, SSU Foundation; Alumna; Business Leader
    • Donna Hills    Associate Professor, Nursing, College of Health and Human Services (MSCA)
    • Miranda Lam    Chair, Accounting and Finance, Bertolon School of Business (MSCA)
    • Oscar Malcolm    Trustee
    • Dena Papanikolaou    General Counsel, Department of Higher Education
    • Pierre (Peter) Walker    Professor, English, College of Arts and Sciences (MSCA)
    • Paul Mattera    Chair, Board of Trustees, ex-officio
    • Mark Quigley    Assistant Vice President, Human Resources and Equal Opportunity; Affirmative Action Officer, non-voting

    If you have questions about the search committee, please contact:
    Lynne Montague

  • Meetings and Updates


    In compliance with Open Meeting Law, the search committee will ensure that our meetings are open to the public whenever possible, while holding closed meetings to protect the confidentially of candidates until finalists are announced.

    May 8-11, 2017 Finalist Interview Schedule See Attached
    April 27-28, 2017 Search Committee Meeting DoubleTree Hilton, Danvers, MA
    April 12, 2017 Search Committee Meeting Petrowski Conference Room (Marsh 210)
    March 29, 2017 Search Committee Meeting Petrowski Conference Room (Marsh 210)
    March 1, 2017 Search Committee Meeting Petrowski Conference Room (Marsh 210) 
    February 17, 2017  Search Committee Meeting MLK Room, Ellison Campus Center


    The below updates have been provided to Salem State students, faculty and staff to-date.


  • Biography of President-Elect John D. Keenan

    John D. Keenan, JD, has been named as the 14th president of Salem State University, a role he will assume in early August of 2017.

    Mr. Keenan 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.

    A lifelong Salem resident, Mr. Keenan is a proud product of Salem Public Schools. Like 35 percent of Salem State students, he is in the first generation of his family to attend college. Mr. Keenan received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and his JD from Suffolk University.

    Prior to joining Salem State, Mr. Keenan represented the Seventh Essex District in the Massachusetts State Legislature from 2005 to 2014. He was a leading proponent of gaining university status for Salem State in 2010, the lead sponsor of a bill providing benefits equity for all state university faculty, and an advocate for increased funding for state universities. He also moved a number of significant public projects forward, including the building of the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center, the Salem MBTA Station, and the Thaddeus Buczko Probate Court. He was the leading proponent of the $1 billion Footprint Power redevelopment of Salem Harbor Station, the largest project in Salem’s almost 400-year history. At Salem State, he utilized this expertise to help fund and recently complete the Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts.  

    In addition to his strong commitment to public higher education, Mr. Keenan’s time in the state legislature allowed him to be lead on issues of social justice. He voted to preserve marriage equality, address schoolyard bullying, and protect transgendered employees in the work place. While the bill ultimately did not pass, one of his proudest votes was in support of the DREAM Act, to provide in-state tuition for undocumented students.  

    Before serving as a legislator, Mr. Keenan was an assistant district attorney in Essex County and a member of that office’s first ever Domestic Violence Unit. This experience positioned him to help lead Salem State’s Title IX team, focusing on both the prevention and investigation of sexual assaults on campus. As a result of his efforts, Salem State hosted the National Center for Campus Public Safety’s Trauma-Informed Sexual Assault Investigation and Adjudication Institute on campus in January of 2017. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey spoke at the institute to bring attention to this national problem. Mr. Keenan also served in the administrations of Mayor Neil Harrington and Mayor Stanley Usovicz as Salem city solicitor.

    Mr. Keenan’s leadership of the North Shore’s only public, four-year institution comes after more than 300 years of family history in Salem. He is a direct descendent of Rebecca Nurse, who was executed in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. This tragedy shapes his commitment to social justice and human rights. He serves on the board of the Salem Award Foundation for Human Rights & Social Justice and on the North Shore Advisory Board of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

    Mr. Keenan resides in Salem with his wife, Kara McLaughlin, and their two children, Aidan and Erin. An avid bike rider, he has participated in the Pan Mass Challenge for the past quarter century, raising over $160,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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