James McKeown School of Education

Left to right: Molly Vardaro, Kelly Bourque, Denise McKeown, and Joyce and Bill Cummings at SSU’s newly rededicated James McKeown School of Education

                                                              (photo credit: Salem State University)

WOBURN – A campus-wide event at Salem State University (SSU) celebrated the rededication of James McKeown School of Education. The School will memorialize a 1977 alumnus and longtime resident of both Woburn and Winchester.

The dedication ceremony follows a $10 million gift made to SSU this summer by Cummings Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate of Woburn commercial real estate firm Cummings Properties.

“We are honored to remember our alumnus Jamie McKeown, and the school that now bears his name will achieve far more for the region's educational ecosystem than would have been possible without the generosity of Bill and Joyce Cummings,” said SSU president John D. Keenan. “The McKeown School’s name represents great promise for its lasting impact.”

McKeown joined Cummings Properties as a commercial leasing agent in 1979, and was named its second ever president in 1990. A managing trustee for Cummings Foundation as well, he distinguished himself as both a business and community leader until his sudden, untimely death at age 41 in November of 1996.

“This investment in Salem State University is especially meaningful for us,” said Cummings Foundation co-founder and Winchester resident Joyce Cummings. “Jamie was well known for his passion for education and commitment to creating opportunities for young people. I can think of no better way to memorialize such a wonderful person than by supporting the advancement of so many worthy ideals at his alma mater.”

Joining Bill and Joyce Cummings at the dedication ceremony were Jamie’s widow, Denise McKeown, who now lives in Woburn, and his two grown daughters, Kelly Bourque and Molly Vardaro. Also present was Winchester resident Dennis Clarke, a protege of Jamie, his immediate successor as president, and now chairman and CEO of Cummings.

A Woburn native, McKeown remained deeply rooted in the local community throughout his life. He held leadership roles with several community organizations, including Woburn Industrial Development Finance Authority, Woburn Business Association, and the former Woburn Boys and Girls Club, where he was the first former student member to serve as a director and, later, as president of the Club.

SSU’s James McKeown School of Education is the third such honor bestowed on McKeown since his passing. Woburn Boys and Girls Club was rededicated in his name in 2014, as was the James L. McKeown Elementary School in Beverly in 1997.

The $10 million gift from Cummings Foundation will support the development and implementation of programming designed to strengthen and diversify the educator workforce.

This donation inducts SSU into Cummings’ cadre of “Affiliated Colleges,” seven esteemed institutions that, although unaffiliated with each other, have been awarded at least $10 million each from Cummings Foundation. The Foundation has also made significant earlier gifts to SSU in support of its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Cummings Foundation was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the largest private foundations in New England. It aims to give back in the areas where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed on a pro bono basis by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly $450 million in grants. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth, Salem State enrolls about 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 32 undergraduate programs and graduate programs that offer degrees in 24 fields. The university also has a continuing education division that offers both credit and non-credit programs. Salem State proudly participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement and has shown a student voting rate above the national average, earning it a Silver Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. In 2020, Salem State received Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The university is designated a Best for Vets College by Military Times.

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