What a Year! Reflections on 2022 at Salem Academy and College

What a Year! Reflections on 2022 at Salem Academy and College

December 22, 2022

Dear Salem Community,

Greetings from Salem Academy and College! Please join me in taking a few moments to reflect on some highlights of 2022, and come to the conclusion of our beloved Salem’s 250th anniversary. On my stroll home to the Boner house yesterday across our newly-quiet campus, I happened upon a Camellia in bloom, thriving in the crisp North Carolina air. In the winter of this historic year, this reminded me of how Salem has thrived throughout the seasons and as we prepare for our 251st year and beyond.

None of us will ever forget April 2022 at Salem Academy and College, which celebrated everything that is Salem, including the rich history, successes, and contributions of our alumnae. Over 700 Academy and College alumnae gathered for this year’s celebratory 250th Anniversary All Class Reunion. Friends finally gathering together after the past few years was a joy for us all. We remembered and honored our historic journey and imagined our bright future together. There were so many special moments, including the screening of a new documentary for the Journey filmed by and featuring our alumnae.

I was humbled and honored in April to be inaugurated as the 22nd President of Salem Academy and College. I am so thankful to the entire Salem family for the many inaugural messages of support and commitment to our shared roles at Salem, and on a personal note thank you for welcoming my own relatives from across the country who came to celebrate and share Salem’s 250th celebrations. The inaugurgation closed with this video

It was a time for thinking about how our past informs our future, including our inaugural Health Leadership Forum, attended by several hundred students, alums, and leaders across North Carolina, featuring prominent health leaders and a special appearance from Gov. Roy Cooper. The President  of Mayo Clinic Health System offered up her support for Salem’s plans to help create leaders who can make the world a better, healthier, and more equitable place.

Later in spring, Salem Academy and College commencements returned to the May Dell this year, and Salem College awarded its first honorary degrees to Dr. Pamela Oliver and Margaret Vardell Sandresky.

Continuing our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, this fall we welcomed to Salem Academy and College the institution’s first Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. AJ Mazaris, who is leading campus efforts to foster a culture of belonging and respect. We gathered in community this October with distinguished guests for the unveiling of a historic plaque honoring the 13 Cherokee girls who attended Salem in the 19th century. The work of the Anna Maria Samuel Project continues to discover and share our remarkable history.

Every day in Babcock and across campus, Salem Academy is moving full STEAM ahead! Salem Academy is now ranked as the #1 private high school in the Greensboro area and #2 Best Boarding High School in North Carolina, and #7 (of 154) Best Private High Schools in North Carolina by Niche.  As with health leadership in the College, the focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) is both extraordinary and unique and has spurred real excitement across the nation.

Our Academy robotics teams found new inspiration and challenges through the Academy’s newly designed curriculum. They hosted the Loki 2022 Robotics Scrimmage and partnered with Kaleideum for two weeks of middle school robotics and coding camps. Academy students experienced the inaugural Innovation Days and Innovation Days, which included hands-on workshops such as our groundbreaking coursework in gene editing for high school students. This was led by scientists from ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute. Salem’s amazing Debate Team competed in a Coolidge League Debate tournament. All debaters did well at the competition, including one of the novice teams who finished third in their division. Many students worked on lighting and theater set design in their classes in preparation for the fall play, Clue, which was a huge hit. Others worked with a local mural artist to create and paint a new campus mural and created wearable wings at the MiXXER Maker Space. Salem Academy also collaborated with Bookmarks to bring author and global health expert Chelsea Clinton to our campus.

Saber athletics are also in full swing and had a large turnout for all our fall and winter sports. The Academy swim team won its first meet, as all swimmers were able to cut time, and two students and a relay team qualified for the state swimming championship!

Salem College received official word from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) that Salem College has received a 10-year reaffirmation of our accreditation. It comes after an effort led by Elizabeth Novicki to which Richard Vinson and teams of faculty and staff across campus contributed. This comes on the heels of our first #1 national ranking from US News & World Report Best Colleges, which, fittingly, is the top national liberal arts college in America for Social Mobility. This is a measure of our success in ensuring that students with significant financial needs can go on to graduate and find success, as Salem has done for girls and women since 1772! Salem is now the highest-ranked women’s college in the Carolinas.

This fall, we also learned that Salem College was co-recipient of a $4.7 million Teacher Quality Partnership federal grant by the U.S. Department of Education in a cross-institutional collaboration with Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest University, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS), one among several significant new funded initiatives led by our faculty.

Salem College also saw a turnaround in enrollment this year, as this year’s incoming class of first-year and transfer students at Salem College came in 109% larger than last year after we received more applications than in any year in our history. The Class of 2026 had an incoming GPA of 3.81 and 46% identified as persons of color, 54% Pell-eligible students and 26% first-generation students. Among the class are 19 Salem Scholars, our first group of health leadership scholarship recipients. Among Salem College’s 2022 graduates, many went on to graduate school, including our first health humanities graduate who will attend Brown University in January. This fall, Salem has already received more applications than in the entire cycle last year with applications still rolling in for the Class of 2027.

As the College pursues its transformation as a liberal arts institution with a focus on health, leadership development and building healthy communities locally and globally, we are truly preparing students to make the world a better, healthier and more equitable place. In support of that effort, Salem College hired three new health leadership faculty this academic year among a number of extraordinary new faculty and staff who join our family.

Our Salem Spirits set several institutional and conference records in athletics this year. Spirits Volleyball was cited as having the biggest turnaround in USA South conference history, going from 1 win in Fall 2021 to 21 wins this year, and secured the #3 seed in the tournamentHead Coach Barry Rymer was awarded Coach of the Year honors in the USA South conference and named Coach of the Year by the AVCA. Our soccer team was #8 seed in the USA South Conference playoffs and Darilyn Nieto was awarded Rookie of the Year. Soccer finished out the season by earning the USA South Fall Sportsmanship Award. Our winter and spring sport season is being led by two new coaches, Sharee Boyd in Women’s Basketball and Courtney Tucker in Women’s Softball and will see continued growth in our Swim program.

As 2022 draws to a close, all of us share enormous gratitude for so many gifts large and small. Alumnae and friends have helped Salem surpass our $12.5M 250th Anniversary Campaign goal, raising more than $14.9M in just over one year! Salem is forever grateful for the passion and care you show to Salem yearly. Salem alumnae give our institution its life force, and this was an incredible and sustaining year for Salem. Gretchen Wampler Welch, C’66, deeply understood the treasure that is Salem. Long-standing donor, admissions alumnae representative and supporter of the School of Music, she ensured that her love of Salem would live on in her passing, gifting over $3.7M was gifted this year. This transformational gift will impact College students and faculty forever. I am so personally thankful to Gretchen and all those whose gifts have made this a milestone year for Salem. Our hard-working institutional advancement team has much about which they should be proud!

As I look back on the year I treasure my conversations with generations of alumnae, including dozens whom I was able to hear from this year at events in Charlotte, Washington D.C., Seattle, the Triangle, and Winston-Salem. I look forward to many more alumnae events in the new year. Your faith in Salem and support for our family is so meaningful to all of us and to me personally.

Our shared work enables us to reach new heights. Next year I have committed to continue to invest in our people, programs and places, to serve our students and our community, and to improve the ways that we communicate the past, present, and future of Salem to people around the world. As I said in my inaugural address, Salem rises up to face the challenges and opportunities of the future. It’s what we do and have always done. I thank you for everything you do to make Salem extraordinary.

Many warm wishes for a happy and healthy 2023.  


 Summer J McGee's signature

Summer J. McGee, Ph.D., CPH