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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Tells Record Number of Graduates to ‘Be Determined, Have a Plan’


LOWELL, Mass. ߝ National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell today addressed the largest graduating class in the history of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, encouraging them to “create a vision, be determined and have a plan.”

“Your education is not over, it’s just beginning. But that’s a good thing. You’ve learned how to learn, now continue. Learn how to work with people, respect relationships, embrace change, don’t resist it,” said Goodell, who worked his way up to commissioner through the NFL from public relations intern, a position he secured not long after his own college graduation through an extensive letter-writing campaign to the league and all of its teams.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft introduced Goodell’s speech. “Roger continues to live by one of his father’s philosophies that you can’t go wrong when you are committed to doing what you think is right. I’m sure that [his parents] would be proud not for just what Roger has accomplished but the way that he has succeeded.” Watch Goodell’s speech here:

Goodell and his brothers ߝ Jeffrey, Michael, Timothy and William ߝ accepted a posthumous Doctor of Humane Letters degree for their father, the late U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell, a Republican who was elected to Congress in 1959 and appointed to the Senate following the assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. He established a solid record on issues such as civil rights, the war on poverty and education, and had a reputation for not compromising his values. A veteran of two wars, both World War II and the Korean War, he introduced the first bill to call for a halt in funding for the Vietnam War. He became a target of the Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew “purge.” He was later appointed by President Gerald Ford as the chairman of the Presidential Clemency Board, which reviewed more than 20,000 applications from Vietnam War resisters.

“My father had the courage to stick to his principles, no matter what the consequences.  People may not know that initially he supported the Vietnam War. He always supported our troops. But over time he listened, listened to students like you. I want you to know that your voice is important,” Roger Goodell told graduates. “It was my father’s principles, integrity and character that left an important legacy. Remember, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Have the courage to do what you believe in.”

Chancellor Marty Meehan presided over the ceremony, held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, where a record number of graduates ߝ nearly 2,400 ߝ received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

“William Butler Yeats said, ‘Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.’ We hope that in your years at UMass Lowell that you have been filled up with learning ߝ with concepts, with facts, with skills, with ideas,” Meehan told graduates. “But what is more important, we hope a fire has been sparked in you to take your learning and make the world a better place.”

The university also recognized the following outstanding individuals with Doctor of Humane Letters degrees:

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for the bestseller, “No Ordinary Time ߝ Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.” She began her career in the Lyndon B. Johnson White House, which served as the basis for her first book. She lectures around the world and is a frequent media commentator on American politics. She lives in Concord with her husband Richard Goodwin. 
  • Richard Goodwin is an American playwright, author and professor, and served as adviser and speechwriter to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. He worked for the congressional committee investigating the “Twenty-One” game show scandal and his experiences provided material for the Oscar-nominated film, “Quiz Show,” in which he is portrayed by actor Rob Morrow. 
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings, the Kellner Family professor of urban education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducts research examining the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African-American students. She is the author of critically acclaimed books including “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children” and “Crossing over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms.”
  • Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist and essayist who won the 1996 Andrew Gemant Award of the American Institute of Physics for linking science and the humanities. As a physicist, Lightman has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of black holes, gravity and astrophysics. His novel, “Einstein’s Dreams” was an international bestseller and has been translated into 30 languages. Lightman is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • The university honored Bonnie Comley ’81 with the Distinguished Alumni Award. Comley is an independent entertainment professional who has produced, acted and written for theater, TV and film for almost 30 years. As vice president of Stellar Productions International, she produces Broadway shows that have included “Come Fly Away” and “All About Me.” She has received some of the entertainment world’s highest honors, including a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, the Actors Fund Medal of Honor and an Ovation Award. She lives in New York City with her husband and business partner, Stewart F. Lane and their five children. Originally from Bedford, she is a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council.

Graduating senior Allison Geissert of Chelmsford, a member of the group Nursing Students Without Borders that traveled to Ghana, Africa, served as student speaker.

“Each of us has been transformed here. I myself went from rollercoaster grades to the Honors Program. Each of us has a story of transformation. Each of us has a story of change that is yet to be told,” Geissert said. “Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.’ Graduates, imagine what a group this big can do. We have so much to offer….Go out there and be the change you want to see.”

Also participating in Commencement exercises were UMass President Jack Wilson, UMass Trustees Henry Thomas III and Edward Collins Jr., Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos, Rep. Thomas Golden Jr., Rep. James Miceli, Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola, senior class president Nana Bonsu of Worcester, UMass Lowell administrators and the UMass Lowell Brass Choir, conducted by Prof. Daniel Lutz.

Student award winners were recognized at the Commencement Eve Gala on Friday, May 28, which raised more than $500,000 for scholarships. Top honors went to valedictorian Amanda Boutrus of Salem, N.H., who received the Trustees Key for completing all four years of undergraduate study at the university with a grade point average of 4.0. She is also the recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Division of Sciences.

The Chancellor’s Medals for Academic Achievement went to: Miriam Drissi of Litchfield, Maine (College of Arts and Sciences’ Division of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences); Rachel E. Wakim of Dracut (College of Engineering); Matthew A. Fleming of Methuen (College of Management); Vivian Sophine Lasnier of Amesbury (School of Health and Environment); William J. Hawksley of Brentwood, N.H. (Division of Continuing Studies, Corporate and Distance Education). The University Scholar-Athlete Award was presented to Michael Clem of Charlton.

The Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service winners were Nana Bonsu of Worcester, Molly Clay of Rockport, Eunice Delice of Methuen, David Koffman of Woburn, Theodore Serozynsky of Saugus and Frank Stegnar of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The University Medal for Community Service went to Danane Chhor of Dracut, Thomas Cole of Tyngsboro, Alayna Mender of Windham, N.H., Nicole Sambursky of Andover, Lindsey Sherman of Hamilton and Steven Hansen of St. George, Utah. Hansen, the first online student to receive the award, passed away last month at age 37. His parents, Nyle and LaVerne Hansen, traveled from Utah to accept the award on his behalf.

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