By Robert Mills
LOWELL -- U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said more than a year ago that he would visit the Lowell National Historic Park, and Wednesday UMass Lowell announced that Salazar will deliver the school's undergraduate commencement address when he makes that visit next month.
Salazar, a former senator from Colorado, oversees the country's national parks, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and several other agencies. He is a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet.
Salazar has served as Interior Secretary since Jan. 20, 2009, the same day Obama was sworn into office. Salazar was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Rep. Niki Tsongas invited Salazar to visit Lowell during a March 2011 budget hearing held by the House Natural Resources Committee, touting the Lowell National Historic Park as an example of the impact that urban national parks can have across the country.
Salazar will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the university.
"I invited Secretary Salazar to visit Lowell and nominated him to receive an honorary degree because I believe that the city of Lowell has met the challenges of a changing economy with ingenuity and collaborative action and can serve as a model to mid-size cities across the country," Tsongas said.
Salazar accepted the invitation immediately, but it wasn't until Wednesday that his visit was announced.
"Secretary Salazar has been a champion of conservation and protector of the environment during a lifetime of public service," said Chancellor Marty Meehan.
"Our graduates are fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from a national leader who is so dedicated and committed to preserving our resources for them and future generations."
Due to increasing enrollment, this year will be the first time UMass Lowell splits its commencement into undergraduate commencement and then a second commencement for those getting masters and doctoral degrees.
Salazar will address about 1,900 undergraduates who will get their degrees in the morning of Saturday, May 26, at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
"With this talented group of young men and woman about to enter the workforce, I know that our best days are ahead of us," Salazar said in a prepared statement released by the university. "Under their strong leadership and with their innovative skills, they can help build a better America, a strong America. I'm honored to share this important moment in their lives, and I look forward to seeing the positive changes and contributions they will bring to their communities and to this nation."