BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — On Tuesday night, the School Committee voted to accept a $50,000 gift for renovations to the Science Discovery Center at Saltonstall School.
It was a routine agenda item, but also special.
The money was offered by Dr. Nile Albright, a trustee of the Norman H. Read Charitable Trust.
“(Albright) called me,” said Darleen Melis, chairwoman of the school building committee that oversees the ongoing renovations at Saltonstall and Collins Middle schools. “He said, ‘I have this wonderful idea.’”
The idea was to move the cabinets, sinks and other objects that block a large window in the science room at Saltonstall, a window that faces Salem Harbor.
“He wanted to bring it back,” she said of the view and the full sunlight. “He wanted a sense of excitement to be in that room.”
For anyone who knows the Read Trust, it was one more in a long list of acts of generosity, all aimed at giving the Salem public schools a science program second to none.
“It’s phenomenal,” Saltonstall Principal Julie Carter said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this renovation without this money.”
There is a lot that the Salem public schools couldn’t do without the Read Trust, which has donated more than $3.5 million for science education over the past two decades.
The trust has established and stocked Norman H. Read Science Education Centers in virtually every public school. It has paid teacher salaries and currently pays the salaries of several science integration specialists in the public schools, who help coordinate programs across the school system.
It pays to send Salem residents to the Museum of Science in Boston every fall, even supplying free train rides. Then there is the summer Read Family Picnic, begun years ago by another family trust, that has evolved into an outdoor science fair for the children of Salem.
Albright takes none of the credit himself. He is merely a trustee, he says, carrying out the wishes of an old friend, patient and fellow mountain climber, the late Norman Read, a Texas geologist who made a fortune staking out mineral rights in the West.
The Read family has deep ties to Salem that go back to the early 1800s. Portraits of several family members hang in City Hall. Norman Read’s portrait now hangs in the mayor’s office.
This huge gift to Salem, which goes on year after year, is the result of a promise Norman Read made years ago.
“His grandfather, on his deathbed, said to Norman, ‘If you ever have any funds when you pass on, would you remember Salem?’” Albright said.
Before he died in 1992 at the age of 101, Read made arrangements to keep that promise, telling Albright and other trustees that he wanted his annual bequest to promote “science and excellence” in the city of Salem.
Every year, the Read Trust donates about $400,000 for medical research at Salem Hospital and to advance the scientific knowledge of the children of Salem.
“We feel good about doing that,” Albright said. “... We hope we set an example for other cities around the country.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.