President, Salem State University
Apr 27, 2021
John D. Keenan
President, Salem State University

John D. Keenan, JD is a former Salem Rotarian and the 14th president of Salem State University (SSU).

Prior to being named president, John served as general counsel and vice president for administration at SSU, overseeing the university’s day-to-day operations in support of its academic mission, including human resources and equal opportunity, capital planning and facilities, information technology, risk and asset management, and university police.

Prior to his arrival on campus, John 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 and 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.

John’s time in the state legislature allowed him to lead on issues of social justice: voting to preserve marriage equality, address schoolyard bullying, and protect transgendered employees in the workplace. 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 his election to office, John was an assistant district attorney in Essex County and a member of that office’s first ever Domestic Violence Unit. He also served in the administrations of Mayor Neil Harrington and Mayor Stanley Usovicz as Salem city solicitor.

A lifelong Salem resident, John is a proud product of Salem Public Schools. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and his JD from Suffolk University. John resides in Salem with his wife, Kara McLaughlin, and their two children, Aidan and Erin.