Salem State University

Salem State University is a public university in Salem, Massachusetts. It was established in 1854 as Salem Normal School. As of 2013, Salem State enrolled 7,664 undergraduate and 1,637 graduate, full- and part-time students, from 27 states and 57 foreign countries. The university offers Bachelor and Masters Degrees in the Arts and Sciences, Masters of Business Administration, and Post Masters Certificates in more than 40 academic disciplines. In addition, the university also offers Continuing Education courses for credit and non-credit.

Salem State University
Former names
Salem Normal School, Salem Teachers College, Salem State College
Endowment$18,203,193 (2014)[1]
PresidentJohn Keenan
ProvostDavid Silva
Academic staff
756 (full- and part-time)
Undergraduates7,664 (5,894 full time)
Postgraduates1,637 (343 full time)[2]
Location, ,
United States

42.503113°N 70.892643°W / 42.503113; -70.892643
Campussuburban, 115 acres
ColorsBlue and Orange          
AthleticsNCAA D-III (MASCAC, LEC, CHC,) [3]


Salem State University was founded in 1854 as the Salem Normal School under the guidance of Horace Mann. The Salem Normal School is the fourth normal school to open in Massachusetts, and only the tenth to open in the United States. Initially, the school was a 2-year, post-secondary educational institution reserved for women. In 1898, the school became co-educational by enrolling its first group of male students that September.

In 1896 the school relocated to its current location in South Salem (to the building known today as the Sullivan Building). A few years later the Horace Mann Laboratory School was opened. With the construction of a more formal campus, the school was able to lengthen its curriculum to a 4-year study program in 1921. The first bachelor's degree program was in commercial education. In 1932, the school was renamed Salem Teachers College.

In 1960, the school was renamed State Teachers' College at Salem, and shortly thereafter in 1968 the school was renamed to Salem State College. Salem State's physical campus, restricted to North Campus at the time, developed quite rapidly during the 1960s under the leadership of President Frederick Meier. Peabody and Bowditch Halls were built on North Campus in 1965. Bowditch hall reflected the trends of multiple-story building construction during the first half of the Cold War, with a fallout shelter being built under the building with a capacity of 985 people. Meier Hall was also constructed in 1965, and the Ellison Campus Center shortly thereafter in 1966. Throughout the 1970s, the school continued to expand its physical campus by constructing a new library, the O’Keefe Athletic Center, and by purchasing the land for what is today known as South Campus.

In the mid-1990s, the college moved forward with purchasing a 37.5-acre industrial site on Loring Avenue. The site was formerly home to a lightbulb plant owned by the General Telephone & Electronics Corporation, formerly Sylvania Electric Products. When GTE decided to exit the electrical equipment market, they sold off their former factory to Salem State. That site, is today known as Central Campus. It houses the Bertolon School of Business and three residence complexes: Viking Hall, Marsh Hall and Atlantic Hall.

On July 26, 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that changed the name of institution to Salem State University. The name change became official on October 26, 2010.


Salem State University is divided into six unique campuses totaling a land-mass of 115 acres with approximately thirty-three buildings.[2] The main campus (North Campus) is located about a mile south of downtown Salem at the intersection of Lafayette Street and Loring Avenue. Within short walking distance from north campus is central campus, south campus, the School of Social Work, and the Richard O'Keefe Athletic Center. The university also operates a maritime facility at Cat Cove on the Salem harbor; located a mile north of the main campus.

North Campus

North campus is the largest of the five campuses. The majority of the university's arts and science programs are housed within the two academic buildings on north campus; the Edward Sullivan Building and Frederick Meier Hall. A focal point of North campus is the George H. Ellison Campus Center which houses the career and counseling centers as well as a number of student organizations.[4] Freshman resident students are housed on north campus in two identical residence halls, Peabody and Bowditch. Other facilities on North campus include the Frederick E. Berry Library & Learning Commons, North Dining Commons and Sophia Gordon Performing Arts Center. The Horace Mann Laboratory School stood on North Campus until 2018, when it was moved to the site of the former Nathaniel Bowditch Elementary School in Salem.

Central Campus

Central campus is the second largest of the five campuses. The Bertolon School of Business, the music department, and the communications department are all housed in the one academic building on central campus, the Classroom Building. Three residence halls, Marsh, Viking and Atlantic house residents, with all residents having a choice of where they want to live. A focal point of central campus is the university's Enterprise Center (small business center). Other facilities on central campus include the campus bookstore, admissions center, campus police station, recital hall, and the university's baseball field and tennis courts.

South Campus

South campus houses the university's College of Health and Human Services. The School of Nursing and the criminal justice department are housed in the two academic buildings on south campus; the Kevin B. Harrington Building and the Academic Building. Junior and senior resident students are housed on south campus in the Bates Residence Complex. Other facilities on south campus included the Alumni House and the Center for International Education.

School of Social Work

The Salem State School of Social Work is located at 297 Lafayette St., just a short walk from North Campus. It is a former synagogue purchased by the University in 2014, and houses many of the classes for the School of Social Work.

Richard O'Keefe Athletic Center

The O'Keefe Center houses the Sport and Movement Science department and the university's athletic department. Facilities include Twohig Gymnasium, Rockett Ice Arena, Alumni Field, the Gassett Fitness Center, and the swimming pool.

Cat Cove Maritime Facility

Salem State operates a maritime facility at Cat Cove on the Salem harbor. The facility is used to provide interactive, hands-on educational experience for students majoring in marine biology. In the past, Cat Cove has been used to study local shellfish.


Salem State University athletic teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III. The Vikings are a member of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC).

Student life

There are more than seventy student organizations on campus, which are divided into distinct categories: academic affiliated groups, interest groups, performance groups, programming oriented groups, religiously affiliated groups, social and cultural groups, student governing groups, and student media groups. Student organizations are financially supported through a mandatory student fee of $30.00 per semester overseen by the Student Government Association. Undergraduate students are elected to the Student Government Association for one-year terms through an election process during the spring semester. The majority of student organizations are housed in the George H. Ellison Campus Center on North campus.

Academic affiliated groups

  • Accounting Association
  • American Marketing Association
  • Biological Society
  • Chemistry Society
  • Computer Programming Club
  • Criminal Justice Academy
  • Earth Science Association
  • Economics Club
  • English Society
  • Finance Association
  • French Club
  • Future Educators of America
  • Historical Association
  • Honors Program Advisory Council
  • International Business Club
  • Italian Club
  • Philosophy Club
  • Political Science Academy
  • Pre-Law Society
  • Public Relations Student Society of America
  • Student Action Resource Team
  • Spanish Club
  • Sports and Movement Science Club
  • Student Nurses Association

Greek Life

The first fraternity was established at Salem State in 2011.[5] There are now four on campus:

National Panhellenic Conference:

North-American Interfraternity Conference:

Interest groups

  • Fitness and Nutrition Club
  • Grandma's Third Leg
  • Intercultural Leadership Program
  • MassPIRG

Performance groups

  • Salem State SSockapella
  • Repertory Dance Theater
  • Student Theater Ensemble
  • Urban Arts Theater

Programming oriented groups

  • Campus Educators on Sexual Assault
  • Chess Club
  • Community Service Club
  • Competitive Gaming Club
  • Program Council
  • Scuba Club
  • Student Commuter Association
  • Student Veterans Organization

Religiously affiliated groups

Social and cultural groups

  • African Student Union
  • Asian Students Association
  • Florence Luscomb Women's Center
  • Hispanic-American Society
  • International Students Association
  • Multicultural Student Association
  • The Alliance
  • Sunrise Movement Salem

Student governing groups

  • Resident Student Council, formerly the Residence Hall Association
  • Student Government Association

Student media groups

  • WMWM 91.7 – student radio station
  • Red Skies – online literary magazine, under the purview of the English Department

Salem State's Student Newspaper, The Log, ran from the early 1900s until circa 2016. The group ran both online and print publications until 2016, but became dormant after AY 2016-2017, and is no longer an active group on campus.

Club Sports

SSU also has 5 student groups dedicated to sports:

  • Lacrosse
  • Cheer
  • Rugby Club
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Spirit Squad/Dance Club

Club Sports are overseen by one supervisor in the Sports & Movement Science Department, however, as of 2019, recent budget concerns may cause the Sports & Movement Science Dept. to cut funding entirely to Club Sports.


The university is led by an eleven-member board of trustees. The governor appoints nine trustees to five-year terms, renewable once. The Alumni Association elects one trustee for a single five-year term and the student body elects one student trustee for a one-year term.[6] In 2017, the university's trustees selected John D. Keenan as the 14th president of the university. He began in this position in August 2017, with a formal inauguration in January 2018.[7]

The university's annual operating budget for fiscal year 2010 was approximately $130 million; 40% of this coming from state appropriations. The Salem State University Foundation's endowment market value is in excess of $16 million at the end of fiscal year 2010.[2] The university has an important economic impact on the city of Salem, being its second largest employer. The college generated more than $376 million in economic spending in Massachusetts in fiscal year 2006. Salem State University creates jobs for 3,459 Massachusetts residents, including 593 in Salem and 1,978 throughout Essex County.[2]

Speaker series

The Salem State University Speaker Series was established in 1982 as one of the first high-profile speaker series in the country. Former President of the United States, Gerald Ford was invited to speak at the university as the series' first guest.[8] Since the conception of the Speaker Series, the university has hosted renowned leaders, activists and celebrities to share their stories with Salem residents and the surrounding North Shore community. Past speakers have included former Presidents of the United States, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush; Congressman John F. Tierney; television host and comedian, Jay Leno; head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick; quarterback of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady; baseball legend, Cal Ripken Jr.; award-winning actor and director, Robert Redford; and poet, Maya Angelou.


Salem State is served by the 455 and 459 MBTA bus routes, with commuter rail service from Salem Station to Boston via the Newburyport/Rockport Line. The Salem Ferry also runs from downtown Salem to Boston daily, year round.

There are two on-campus shuttle services providing transportation between campuses for Salem State students. The Viking Shuttle, or Cavalier Shuttle as it is sometimes called by students, provides daily scheduled bus service Monday-Friday between North, Central and South Campuses from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM and is a contract service operated by Cavalier Coach Trailways. The Student Shuttle, which is operated by the University Police Department, provides nightly service between North, Central and South Campus and the O'keefe Center, Downtown Salem, Vinnin Square Shopping Center in Swampscott, the Liberty Tree and North Shore Malls in Danvers and Peabody, and to Market Basket on Highland Avenue on Mondays. The Student Shuttle runs from 5:00 PM - 12:00 AM on Monday, 7:00 PM - 12:00 AM Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:00 PM - 1:00 AM on Thursday and Friday, and 12:00 PM - 12:00 AM on Saturday and Sunday. The Student Shuttle is dispatched and operated entirely by students, with oversight and funding from University Police.

Notable alumni

Creative and performing arts


  • Charlotte Forten Grimké (1856) – anti-slavery activist, educator, first African-American teacher to travel south during the American Civil War
  • Ida M. Eliot (1867) - educator, philosopher, writer

Government and politics




  1. "Salem State University". U.S. News & World Report.
  2. "Facts & Figures". Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  4. "Campus Center". Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  5. Nick Kapteyn, "New frats, sororities try to change their images," The Boston Globe, February 15, 2015. Retrieved Dec. 24, 2017.
  6. "Board of Trustees". Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  7. John Laidler, Keenan to be inaugurated as Salem State president, The Boston Globe, January 11, 2018.
  8. UPI Archives Nov. 5, 1982
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