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Forging a New Cultural Link

UMass Lowell Launches Center for Portuguese Studies

Portuguese talk/Lowell Sun photo by Julia Malakie
Celebrating at the kickoff for UMass Lowell's Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Studies & Culture are, from left, Paulo Cunha Alves, consul general of Portugal in Boston; donor Luis Pedroso of Hampton, N.H.; Analise Saab of Lowell, representing her parents, donors Mark and Elisia Saab of Lowell; and UML Executive Vice Chancellor Jacquie Moloney.

Lowell Sun
By Marie Donovan

LOWELL -- UMass Lowell launched its new Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Studies & Culture Thursday night with a reception featuring California author Anthony Barcellos. 

The event featured an accordion player and Barcellos reading from his first novel, a tale of a successful Portuguese immigrant farming family titled Land of Milk and Money. It was put on in coordination with UMass Dartmouth, which already has a center for the study of Portuguese culture and will serve as a partner to the new UML Center. 

"The Portuguese language is the second most-spoken language in the state of Massachusetts after English," noted Paulo Cunha Alves, consul general of Portugal in Boston, who joined UML Chancellor Marty Meehan in celebrating the launch. 
"A special thank-you should be given to Mark and Elisia Saab and also Luis Pedroso for their wonderful and generous contribution," said Alves. 

Together, the Saab family, of Lowell, and Pedroso, a Lowell High School graduate who is the CEO of an electronics manufacturing and service company, donated $850,000 to fund the new center. Mark Saab is a graduate of UML's Class of 1981. The Saab family's gift will establish a fellowship in Portuguese studies at the center. 

The new center will sponsor cultural events to help preserve Portuguese heritage and a study-abroad program in collaboration with universities in Lisbon and Braga, Portugal. 

Several university officials were credited with helping get the center up and running, including Executive Vice Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, who noted that she and her husband went to Portugal on their honeymoon, Ahmed Abdelal, Paul Marion, Luis Falcon and Martha Mayo. Meehan also thanked a longtime friend and former congressional staffer, Maria Cunha, who is now associate dean at Middlesex Community College, and has made significant contributions to the local Portuguese community. 

"This center will strengthen connections between UMass Lowell and the Portuguese community in Lowell and the northeast part of the state," Meehan said, before presenting Pedroso with tickets to the university's first-round hockey game today at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., where the team has the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional division of the NCAA Tournament.
Portuguese immigrants first came to Lowell in the 1890s and early 1900s, settling in neighborhoods like Back Central and the Highlands so they could go to work in the textile mills. By 1907, they had founded their own parish, Saint Anthony's of Lisbon. 

"I'm a little overwhelmed over this whole thing," Pedroso said. "This is truly a huge occasion for the Portuguese community of Lowell and all of Northern Massachusetts. I've been involved with the Portuguese community at UMass Dartmouth for 15 years or so and I said, 'We need to tie that to the Merrimack Valley also.' We're going to do great things." 

UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman, Lowell Vice Mayor Joe Mendonca and New Bedford state Rep. Tony Cabral were among those at the event, which took place at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. 

"We're very pleased the two universities are collaborating on this program. This is how we can make a greater impact in the commonwealth of Massachusetts," said Grossman. 

The Saabs' daughter, Analise, attended the event in their honor, since they were unable to make it. Her parents have also previously funded the emerging-technologies building, scholarships, a testing lab and an endowed professorship at UML. 

"They really set the standard for community and university stewardship," Meehan said.