My professors taught me all the fundamentals about business, as much as you can from a book. But then they talked how about how to learn, how to work hard. That carried me.
It’s been a theme in the successful career of Salvatore Emma ’83: solving timely problems.
Emma had long since seen his professional aspirations realized by becoming the CEO of a successful public company – Micron, Inc., based in downtown Fitchburg – when he had an epiphany. “I decided that I wanted to do something outside the corporate environment,” he recalled. “I wanted to do something to help with this problem.”
“This problem” was the rash of school shootings. The husband of an educator, Emma decided to start a new company to equip teachers with the ability to save lives in the event of an active shooter. The result was TeacherLock, an ultra-secure deadbolt locking system designed to secure classrooms quickly without a teacher having to fumble for keys that also allows for rapid egress. The system has been installed in thousands of classrooms across the country already. “We started with a couple of mammoth sales to large districts out in the Midwest,” said Emma. “We came out with a device that satisfies the building code nationwide. It’s really the only device in the world that does what it does.”
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the school year nationwide, and Emma saw another opportunity to solve a timely problem when he learned of the shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders. “We’ve got all this equipment for prototyping and product development; let’s put them to use,” he recalled saying. “We found an open source respirator and face shield, and got our 3D printers running. I set them to run overnight and when I wake up in the morning the basket can be full of visors.”
Emma has delivered the masks in person to Heywood Hospital in Gardner and deliveries have been made to numerous police and fire departments in New England, as well as to a physician who was one of the heroes of the Mandalay Bay shooting in Las Vegas. The company manufactured child-sized versions depicting Star Wars characters. “Generally anyone who asks for one gets one,” Emma said.
Emma and his partners, including fellow Fitchburg State graduate Mark Bingham ’83, are not collecting any money for their masks, nor are they seeking any stimulus payments from the federal government in these challenging times. “We don’t need it, so we’re not going to take it,” he said.
This project is a way for Emma and his partners to pass on their good fortune, he said.
“Fitchburg State gave us a more practical education, and it was very personal as well,” he said. “I wasn’t the best student, but I learned. I started out right after school as an accountant. I ended up as a CEO of a public company. How does that happen? My professors taught me all the fundamentals about business, as much as you can from a book. But then they talked how about how to learn, how to work hard. That carried me. We achieved our goal in business. Climb the ladder and get all the way to the top. Once you’re there and you realize there are other things, that kind of brings it full circle to me. To be able to help out in the community still is such a blessing.”
This story was first published in the online edition of the Summer 2020 edition of Contact, the university's alumni magazine.