spoken word

Headshot of Salem Schulman wearing a suit
laurence kesterson
“I’m incredibly grateful, and it’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important to serve the school,” says Salem Shuchman ’84.


As Salem Shuchman ’84 concludes his service as Board Chair, he reflects on his time as a student, his transformative education, and how he connected with the campus community.
by Nick Forrest ’08

What stands out from your time as a student?

My most memorable experience as a student was pursuing my Lang Project in Chester. I was part of the first year of Lang Scholars, and Gene Lang [Eugene Lang ’38, H’81] had included the ability and funding to implement a community-service project of our own design. Having spent time in Chester student-teaching as part of an education class, I learned about some of the challenges faced by the Chester residents. Working as part of a community group associated with one of the many churches in Chester, I designed and implemented a program to purchase and renovate homes for sale to community members. That program continues today through the Chester Community Improvement Project. As Gene expected, the learning from that experience — the progress and the setbacks — had a profound impact on me and the course of my life.

What brought you to the Board, and why was it important for you to serve?

I owe a tremendous debt to Swarthmore. My wife, Barbara Klock ’86, and I met there, and our daughter, Michaela ’16, is also a graduate. As I am sure is true for many alumni, we can each see the impact that Swarthmore has had, not just on our career paths, but on how we live our lives and serve our communities. I hope that during my time on the Board I have been able to contribute to the College that had such an impact on my life’s course.

How would you describe the impact you’ve made?

We all miss our student experience at Swarthmore. Serving on the Board has allowed me to have a close connection and perhaps experience vicariously through the students, faculty, and staff I have met the wonderful community that exists on campus. It’s important for Managers to connect with the on-campus community. I’ve tried to foster that through meetings and shared meals with both faculty members and students. I hope that I have helped my fellow Managers to gain greater insights about the needs of the College, both today and in the future, which are then reflected in the decisions the Board makes on how to utilize its resources, including the endowment.

What are your hopes for Swarthmore?

Swarthmore has an opportunity to be a model community. That’s not to say that it will be a utopia — in fact, it can often represent a microcosm of the many challenges that the larger world faces. In the current environment, how we respond to and address climate change, the issues regarding equity and inclusion, or the difficulty of dialogue between those who hold differing viewpoints — these are all opportunities for our community to set an example or to test approaches to see what might be possible on a broader scale.

Do you have any words of wisdom for students and recent graduates?

Recognize that while you may imagine a clear path to your career and life ahead, it is more likely to be a journey impacted by people you have met, things you have learned, experiences you have had, and some amount of serendipity — and that’s the beauty of it. Swarthmore is a wonderful place to start that journey given the passionate and diverse community of faculty, staff, and fellow students.