Salem Statement - Class Notes


Bob Chartrand '14Alum Digs for History in Jamestown, Virginia

Bob Chartrand ’14 is one of the staff archaeologists at Jamestown Rediscovery where they believe they’ve discovered the remains of Gov. George Yeardley, the first governor of Virginia. We sent Bob some questions about the experience.

We saw that the Jamestown Rediscovery team recently found what could potentially be the remains of Sir George Yeardley, Virginia’s first Governor. How excited is the team regarding the span of this discovery?

This really has been an exciting experience. Since November of 2016, the team and I have put in a vigorous amount of effort leading to such an unbelievable discovery as this one. While gearing up for the 400th anniversary of the foundation of our country’s first representative government and the arrival of the first Africans to what is now the United States, the possibility of discovering the governor who oversaw these actions in the very church of which this unilateral assembly would have met is surreal. This truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

With what precaution is everyone envisioning the possibility of the remains being those of Yeardley?

The possibility of this being Governor Yeardley is significantly high. Although, without scientific evidence we cannot be conclusive. This is why we are collaborating with organizations such as the University of Leicester, the Smithsonian Institute and the FBI. They specialize in DNA extraction which can be collected from specific areas of the remains and correlated with strands of Yeardley’s decedents.

This burial contained several properties unique to others of high status who were commonly buried in churches of this time. Also, forensic evidence provided by the Smithsonian placed the age of death of this individual in his 40s, which correlates to historical documentation of the age of death for Yeardley. But again, we are cautious without the scientific evidence.

Regarding your own experience, you have been involved with Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation for many years now. How has it been working there?

I am truly fortunate to have this opportunity at such an incredible and relevant site which is the birthplace of this nation. I’m at the center of British America’s early exploratory history and to be contributing to our country’s history is an unbelievable feeling. I would have to say too that Salem State definitely gave me the tools to succeed in this academic environment. I owe a great portion of my success here at Jamestown to my professors Emerson “Tad” Baker in the history department and Peter Sablock in the geology department.

What do you think about when the archaeology team you are part of is assigned a new project?

I think about what any player on the Boston Bruins or New England Patriots would think, how I can best contribute to my team. Archaeology is very much a team effort because it involves many interdisciplinary studies; we have specialists in history, archaeology, anthropology, chemistry, geology, and geography for example.

Do you always approach the scene as if something important is about to be discovered?

With archaeology, you always discover something important, even when it’s nothing. Sometimes finding nothing can speak volumes for a landscape or culture which inhabited that land. But when you do find an artifact or feature of historical importance it is an overwhelming feeling. It’s like watching the Patriots win another Super Bowl.

There are artifacts we uncover on a more typical basis such as building nails and ceramics. The thrill of discovering sherds of these artifacts today may be a bit less thrilling, but they contribute heavily as temporal indicators of features or give sight to what the landscape may have been used for. So, the excitement of finding the “next big discovery” lingers every day.

What triggered your passion for archaeology?

Every spring vacation from 1955 to 1985 my grandfather brought my dad and the rest of the family to the “historic triangle” in Virginia, this includes Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown. I was fortunate to have gone there three times in my childhood. Being a kid and seeing people in time period costumes, working colonial tradesman jobs and talking about how everyday life was in the 17th and 18th century made my mind pretend I was in the colonial past. History stuck with me throughout middle and high school as I had some excellent teachers. History and military tradition are elements that our armed forces uphold and teach, so I was able to experience this when I served from 2006 to 2010.

After my service, I enrolled at Salem State within the geology department, where I began researching earth sciences, but Emerson Baker and the history department drew me back into my passion and interest for history. As an elective I took an Archaeology 101 course. We read Dr. Kelso’s (my current director) book, “Jamestown: The Buried Truth” and it immediately drew me in. And with Professor Baker’s passion for the field, it made it that much more intriguing.

I still liked the scientific aspect of archaeology though. By this time, I started working with Peter Sablock who specialized in surveying historical sites with non-invasive geophysical equipment. The idea of being able to view historical cobble foundations beneath the surface triggered my interest and quickly became my passion.

Their guidance inspired me to enroll in Jamestown’s field school in the summer of 2012 and I’ve been with the project ever since. Today, I’m the field supervisor of our ongoing excavations, GIS specialist, and field tech of our own geophysical surveying equipment.


Brian Castellanos 2018Brian Castellanos ‘16G has had quite the year in 2018. He received Salem State University’s 2018 Rising Star Award during a ceremony on campus Sunday, June 10. The award recognizes alumni who have received their degree within the past 15 years and who are making “significant contributions to greater society through professional and philanthropic work.”

At Salem State, Brian earned a master’s degree in criminal justice, and has gone on to serve as a role model for urban youth. A nationally-traveled motivational speaker, he shared his story of overcoming hardships with the Salem State community recently during the university’s volunteer summit and as a keynote speaker for the annual Youth at Risk conference on June 8.

“Whether it was losing both his mother and brother to cancer, growing up in an environment plagued by poverty, facing homelessness, or being told by a team of doctors that he was never going to walk again, Brian’s attitude and spirit never wavered,” said his nominator, Debra Lee Surface, the alumni association board of directors’ vice president of administration.

During his keynote speech at the Youth at Risk conference, he shared a story of hope, one of someone who confronted the odds and battled through many hardships to get where he is today.

“When I was told I would amount to nothing, I didn’t listen,” Brian said in the speech.

Brian also ran the Boston Marathon for the second time in a row in 2018. He not only did this for the satisfaction of having completed the marathon, but also for an important cause: homelessness. He ran for Horizons for Homeless Children, an organization with a mission to improve the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts and help their families succeed by providing high-quality early education, opportunities for play, and comprehensive family support services.

It’s a cause that Brian has experienced himself. He became homeless at age 17 after his brother, who he was living with at the time, died of cancer.

Brian volunteers for Horizons for Homeless Children regularly, and used the marathon as a way of raising awareness and money for the organization.

As a first-generation, low-income Latino, Brian confronted the odds and battled through his many hardships to earn a bachelor’s degree at Framingham State and a master’s degree at Salem State.

“Show appreciation for the here and now,” Brian said in his acceptance address on June 10. “Be enthusiastic about life. You’re always going to be growing up.”

Brian is on the board of directors for the Lynn Community Corrections Coalition, a member of the Lynn School Committee, and serves as fundraising and nomination director for the Framingham State University Alumni Association Board of Directors. He also chairs the student outreach committee as a member of the Salem State University Alumni Association Board of Directors.


Derek DiGregorio '04Derek DiGregorio '04 participated in community and high school theatre, which were both great experiences, but not the place where a student really learns about stage management.

Derek began his career at Salem State University (SSU) as a technical theatre major in the fall of 2000, and says he knew he was in the right place by the way he was welcomed. At SSU, there is faculty-projected passion, caring and an overall sense of well-being. That passion, Derek says, is passed on to their students. In particular, professors David George and Whitney (Whizz) White became important mentors to Derek. Remembering him as a student, Celena April, chairperson of Theatre and Speech Communication, said, “[Derek] was the assistant stage manager on a big musical (“Into the Woods”) that I was directing. From the very beginning, we were all struck by what a good person Derek was, mature beyond his years, levelheaded in every crisis, always professional and pleasant, kind and patient no matter how the work was going, no matter who he was dealing with. On top of having good character, Derek is brilliant and gifted. I believe Derek taught us as much as we taught him.”

Derek says that Salem State was the source of his early, basic knowledge of how the theatre world worked. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in technical theatre, with a concentration in stage management in the spring of 2004, Derek went straight to the Yale School of Drama’s stage management program. He spent three years there, graduating with a master’s degree in fine arts in 2007. At Yale, Derek made many theatrical connections, including Donna Lynn Hilton of the Goodspeed Opera House. A month after graduating with his master’s degree, Derek secured a position as assistant stage manager with Goodspeed Musicals, working on 19 productions with them over the following five years.

By the end of 2011, Derek had reached a turning point in his life and knew he wanted to be in New York, working on Broadway shows. Believing that he should follow his dreams, and utilizing connections he had made, he was able to begin a Broadway career as a production assistant on “The Book of Mormon.” He worked his way up to sub-assistant stage manager, and in 2014, went out with the national tour of the show. From there, Derek worked on “Kinky Boots” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” before landing his current position as assistant stage manager on the award-winning “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Derek’s career has spanned community theatre, high school theatre, university theatre, regional theatre, national tours, off-Broadway and Broadway. Derek commented that in the theatre business, the accomplishment of maintaining consistent work is not easy. The foundation laid by dedicated professors at Salem State, paired with Derek’s own drive, has led to a career that continues to contribute to the art community, and engage audiences in the world of storytelling.



Ed Brzychcy '15Ed Brzychcy '15

Inspired by his military experience, Ed Brzychcy created Blue Cord Management in 2016, which provides leadership development, coaching, training and consulting services. Its mission is to transform “good management” into “visionary leadership.”

“I saw the opportunity to build something,” Ed says. “I had earned my MBA and had the knowledge and resources to create something that I knew would help people. It was a natural step from there to plant my flag in the sand and found my company.”

The consultancy offers services to empower organizations through training, advising and mentoring. It helps transform organizations from within and drive business growth through evaluation and planning, implementation and support. This creates more effective teams and improves communication within organizations by showing businesses how to improve resources, enhance communication and position businesses for growth.

Ed joined the Army about a year after graduating from high school. He served in the military for 12 years, from 1999 to 2011, as an intelligence analyst and infantryman. During his service he achieved the rank of staff sergeant and led squads of up to a dozen soldiers during three combat deployments to Iraq. He has been able to use these experiences to influence strategies and techniques in Blue Cord Management.

He believes that Salem State helped him use the skills he accumulated over his military career and transfer them into the civilian marketplace.

“Salem State was instrumental in giving me a leg up towards restarting my life in this new setting by giving me both the ability to translate what I had been doing as well as developing new skills relevant to my future path,” he says.

Ed has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Salem State, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Salem State Alumni Association and holds an adjunct professor position at Endicott College, teaching classes in business fundamentals and leadership.


Joe MarcianoJoe Marciano became involved with the National Geographic documentary series, "Wicked Tuna" in 2012, as a sophomore in high school. He was involved with school and sports, but in his free time he was working alongside his father, Dave Marciano, who was a full-time fisherman.

The televised documentary series followed several captains in the tuna industry, including Joe's father. After high school, Joe worked on boats in Florida and participated in kingfish tournaments while attending Saint Leo University.

He transferred to Salem State University for his junior year and pursued a degree in marketing. A 2017 graduate, Joe has used his degree to further the interests of his father's fishing business. Angelica Fisheries Inc. has a fleet of two fishing vessels, the Falcon and Hard Merchandise.

Joe says that his Salem State degree has helped him successfully market and advertise the family company. He utilizes social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Trip Advisor, to promote business. Joe, who maintains a website and tracks merchandise sales, attributes Salem State with teaching him the dynamics of marketing and making lasting connections within the fishing industry. Understanding and respecting that his family's time with the television show is unique and limited, Joe is hopeful that his marketing strategies will allow his family to make the most of its opportunity while it lasts.

"Wicked Tuna" has featured Joe's family business as part of the cast in all seven of its currently released seasons. Filming for season eight, Joe says, was to begin July 28. The family has also been a part of a "Wicked Tuna" spinoff entitled, "Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks." This additional documentary series follows the fishermen as they travel south to the waters of North Carolina during the months of January-March, fishing competitively against southern boats.

Joe describes the initial target audience of "Wicked Tuna" as 25 to 40-year-old men, but he explains that the fan base has far surpassed that projection to include a younger audience and women as the show highlights five different captains, all with various backgrounds and with a variety of personalities. Joe feels that the spread of ages of the captains, and behind-the-scenes dynamics, including children and wives, has contributed to the show's success.

In addition to taking a lead with the marketing for Angelica Fisheries Inc. in Gloucester, Joe is also captain of the Hard Merchandise. He was invited to participate in a Blue Fin fishing tournament in Italy, during which he was able to explore Rome. He has also had the opportunity to fish West Coast Blue Fin in California, and has enjoyed having New England Patriots players as clients on the family vessels.

Joe commented that the best thing to come out of "Wicked Tuna" was the dispelling of the idea of the fisherman as a sort of barbaric icon, fishing ruthlessly and without thought for the environment. He attributes the show with highlighting the legacy of aquaculture, fishermen doing their job with regard to sustainability, ensuring the survival of a way of life for future generations.

- Lynn Embick ‘11G


Kim Gassett-Schiller '83Kim D. Gassett Schiller '83, '18H

One proud Viking got the chance to share her appreciation and love for Salem State during commencement this year. Kim D. Gassett-Schiller ’83, ‘18H, a higher education advocate and philanthropist, addressed Salem State’s Maguire Meservey College of Health and Human Services and the Bertolon School of Business during the afternoon graduation ceremony on May 19.

During the ceremony, she received an honorary doctorate degree from her alma mater.

Kim graduated from Salem State with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She began her career of giving to Salem State on her graduation day with a $1 donation. She has given every year since.

“You are a living example of how giving back can impact a community,” said President John Keenan of Kim during the ceremony.

During her commencement speech, Kim highlighted the importance of giving and how alumni support helps make the campus better for each new class of Vikings.

“It is our responsibility to pay it forward, paving the way for the next class of Vikings,” Kim said during the speech. “Alumni did it for me and we have done it for you.”

Kim serves on the Salem State University Foundation Board’s Fundraising and Engagement Committee, was a member of the Salem State President’s Campaign Cabinet, and co-chaired the 10,000 Reasons Campaign, which raised over $26 million for Salem State.

In 2008, she and her husband Philip endowed the Gassett-Schiller Chair in Accounting and Finance in the Bertolon School of Business. The Harold E. and Marilyn J. Gassett Fitness Center, which opened in 2013, was named in honor of Kim’s parents in recognition of her and Philip’s campaign gifts to Salem State University.

Kim ended her commencement speech with this: “Whether it’s a dollar or an endowment, we all give together as a community to impact the school for those who come after. What will be the impact of your gifts to Salem State? Will you contribute to keep tuition costs low for the next generation? Contribute to the new science wing? Contribute to the Bertolon School to help purchase and install the Bloomberg Labs? The possibilities are endless in your making Salem State ‘even better’ for the next class of Vikings.”


Kerriann MacDonaldKerriann MacDonald '14

A commuter from Woburn, Kerriann MacDonald was an undergrad in pursuit of a degree in social work when she arrived at Salem State for her freshman year. But the road to a degree would be more difficult for her than for most of the other students.

While trying to balance work, studies and money, Kerriann was in the middle of a five-and-a-half year emotionally-abusive relationship that would destroy her confidence, affect her ability to concentrate and generate uncontrollable feelings of guilt.

“The relationship had a great impact on my ability to function in class,” Kerriann reveals. “I was constantly looking at my phone to see if he had responded to me in situations where he was angry at me.”

It wasn’t until Salem State professors detected her issues that Kerriann sought help. “I had some really supportive professors and they recognized something was going on and got me connected to Salem State's counseling services,” she says. “That set the stage for my relationship finally coming to an end.”

And it was through her social work classes that she decided to not be quiet about her experience. In May, her novel “Good Enough: Based on True Events” was published.

“Oftentimes, especially in the helping profession that we are in, we can benefit from other people's stories, as well as our own personal experiences to help bring about change in our society. One of my professors, Patricia Connolly, was a really big proponent of using social work's core value of advocacy to shape our practice. I think it was through her class that I really learned that change will never happen if you don't speak up.”

“I think most of my motivation was wanting my own personal healing from the experience I went through, but also not wanting other people to go through what I went through,” she explains.

“Nowadays,” she points out, “I think so many young adults, particularly teenagers, are very prone to what's being discussed, displayed, portrayed, and advertised online, particularly when it comes to relationships. Oftentimes, most of what they consider to be a ‘healthy’ relationship is coming from various media outlets that have an impact on those views.”

“I think there is something we can do to prevent these relationships from happening by having an open conversation with adolescents and talking about how emotional abuse can affect you long-term. I think also having a conversation about self-love could be a huge asset in trying to prevent susceptibility to these relationships as well.”

“Good Enough; Based on True Events” can be purchased on Amazon. "Good Enough" is available on Amazon Kindle for $2.99, or a paperback version can be bought for $12. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can download the book for free!


Marquis Victor '09Marquis Victor '09 was one of two recipients of Salem State University Alumni Association’s 2018 Rising Star Award. The award recognizes alumni who have received their degree within the past 15 years and who are making “significant contributions to greater society through professional and philanthropic work.”

Marquis received the award during a ceremony on campus on Sunday, June 10, 2018. He earned a degree in communications from Salem State, and went on to become co-founder of Elevated Thought, a non-profit art and social justice initiative in Lawrence. The non-profit, officially founded in 2010, actively serves and develops communities through youth empowerment curriculum, beautification projects, youth organizing, and public outreach.

According to his nominator, Christine Sullivan, “Marquis Victor is a thoughtful, creative individual who is passionate about children, engaging youth in their communities and in the possibility for change.”

In 2014, Marquis left his position as dean of students/community field coordinator at the Roger Clap Innovation School in Boston to devote his energy to Elevated Thought, where he currently serves as the president and executive director. According to the website, he leads the non-profit’s vision, objectives, goals and mission, and facilitates many of their programs and workshops.

Among its accomplishments are several invitations to the US Department of Education’s National Student Art Exhibit, the completion of over 40 murals in Lawrence, Boston and Salem, and involvement in inner-city social change initiatives.

“He is a gifted writer and spoken word artist who has used these gifts to connect with youth and to encourage the development of their creativity, critical thinking and awareness,” Christine says.


Taylor Ke '18Taylor Ke '18, 21, of Lowell, was accepted into the Peace Corps and departed for Ukraine in August to begin training as an education volunteer. Ke planned to live and work in a community to teach English at a local high school.

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she held several work study positions at Salem State University, was an assistant at the International Institute of Lowell and served as a youth volunteer for UTEC.

During the first three months of her service, Ke lived with a host family in Ukraine to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist her community, Ke will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Ukraine, where she will live and work for two years with the local people. “I want to learn language confidently and teach language lovingly. Because most likely I will be a child's first introduction to my country, I want to show them all the good we are capable of,” Ke said.

Ke will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Ukraine and help Ke develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.

Ke joins the 232 Massachusetts residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 8,521 Massachusetts residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.