There aren't many U.S. public or private colleges and universities that can say they had as great - and distinctive - an academic year as UMass Lowell had in 2012-13.
On Saturday, Chancellor Marty Meehan and the UML family capped a truly brilliant year with another record-breaking graduation ceremony at the Tsongas Center. It was record-breaking in an academic category that really counts: 3,169 graduates received diplomas.
It was the sixth consecutive year in which UML increased the number of diplomas handed out on commencement day, a statistic that puts a shine on this institution's growing academic reputation.
For students, parents and alumni who participated in this past weekend's events, they had to be proud of the upbeat tone around campus. The feel is of a university on the move, with a strong sense of purpose and commitment to success.
It's a tribute to the leadership of Meehan, now in his sixth year, that UML is building a culture in which excellence is the goal in every discipline, department and activity. And the spirit is infectious. The administration and faculty appear synchronized in improving educational programming and challenging students to reach their potential.
Over the past year, several new buildings were opened that point to UML's vision to be a leader in science and technology. Two of them - the $80 million Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center and the $40 million Health & Social Sciences Building - make a serious statement to visitors that UML is pushing for worldwide attention in research-and-development opportunities. In 2013, U.S. News & World Report took notice by ranking UML among the best public colleges in the U.S.
A new business school, two new dormitories and University Crossing complex (the former St. Joseph's Hospital) will open either next year or in the near future.
Of course, UML's ambitious course is not limited to academics. The UML River Hawks hockey team provided area fans with many great moments in its run to the NCAA Frozen Four Championship Tournament. Coach Norm Bazin's squad finished one game short of playing for the national title, a remarkable feat. More excitement appears on the way, as UML announced it will join the Division I ranks in and compete in the American East Conference.
To all of Saturday's graduates, good luck in your career paths. We also salute the UML administration, faculty and staff for all your positive endeavors.
Yes, 2013 was a great year at UML, and 2014 promises to be just as good, if not better.