By From the Lowell Sun
By Dennis Shaughnessey
LOWELL -- From the UMass Lowell ice sculpture inside the UML Inn and Conference Center's Grand Ballroom to the brass quartet greeting guests outside, the third annual Commencement Eve Gala was complete with all the VIP trappings.
"This evening is exactly what we envisioned when we started doing a dinner before commencement three years ago," Chancellor Marty Meehan told The Sun. "It's an opportunity to demonstrate to the community who our student award recipients are and it's better this year than in previous years in large part because we have this building and this beautiful ballroom."
UMass Lowell has raised more than $500,000 for student scholarships before the event and more was expected. National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2010 today, attended the gala with his four brothers.
His father, the late U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell, will be honored at today's commencement with a posthumous Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
It is Goodell's first trip to Lowell, he told The Sun, and is looking forward to today's events.
"It really is a special honor and a special time for our entire family," Goodell said. "To have my father honored this way is something we all appreciate very much. We're all looking forward to it."
Goodell continued to say that he has given several commencement addresses in the past but, "I recognize my role is a minor one. It's a special day for the graduates and their families. I can't even remember who spoke at my commencement."
Before dinner, renowned authors and presidential advisers and speechwriters Doris Kearns Goodwin and Richard Goodwin held court with guests in the Junior Ballroom, recounting their experiences and signing books. Doris Kearns Goodwin focused particularly on the Lyndon Johnson administration and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, his push for Medicare, Head Start, voting rights and immigration reform.
"But he was bogged down by the Vietnam War," she said.
The discussion was moderated by former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, who ended the 90-minute forum by congratulating Meehan for expanding the college.
The gala, which was awash in prominent business leaders from throughout the Greater Lowell area, introduced two new endowed scholarships, one named for Charles E. Goodell, the other for the Goodwins.