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UMass Lowell Embraces the Future and Celebrates Its Past


Construction of New Tech Center Advances with Placement of Final Beam; 
1947 Time Capsule Opened, New Time Capsule Assembled

LOWELL, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Lowell took a step toward its future today, when it raised the final steel beam on top of the new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC), a $70 million construction project that is generating hundreds of jobs.
The university also celebrated its history with the opening of the Smith Hall time capsule. The long-forgotten capsule was assembled in 1947 and recovered during the demolition of the residence hall, which was razed to make way for the ETIC. Its contents include letters from government and campus leaders, including then-Gov. Robert F. Bradford, directed to the people of the future, along with memorabilia from what was then Lowell Textile Institute, such as an alumni publication, a ribbon denoting the school’s 50th anniversary, an artist’s rendering from the construction of Smith Hall, a course catalog and student newspapers.

“Today we commemorate 63 years of history of Smith Hall and we also celebrate a milestone in the construction of the new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, a building that will change the face of our campus and the capability of our research to impact industry,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan.

When completed, the 84,000-square-foot ETIC will bring together experts in such leading-edge disciplines as plastics engineering, nanotechnology, electro-optics and biomedicine. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, the four-story facility will include clean-room space, wet labs, engineering labs, plastics processing facilities and meeting rooms.

At today’s “topping off” ceremony, UMass Lowell students, alumni, faculty and guests signed their names to the final steel beam, which was then hoisted in place by a crane.

The ETIC is the centerpiece of the first major physical transformation of the campus in more than three decades. In the past 18 months, UMass Lowell has acquired the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell and University Crossing (formerly St. Joseph’s Hospital). In addition, construction will soon be underway on a new academic building on South Campus and a new parking garage on North Campus. 

On hand for today’s celebration were state Sen. Eileen Donoghue; Lowell Mayor James Milinazzo; UMass President Jack Wilson; state Rep. Thomas Golden and Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch; alumni, and civic and student leaders. State funding for the facility includes $35 million from the Massachusetts Economic Investment Act of 2006. UMass is funding $25 million and federal and private sources are providing $10 million. In addition to the Lowell delegation, former state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy helped secure funding.

Advance Polymers Inc. in Salem, N.H., and alumnus John Kennedy, the retired president and CEO of Nova Analytics Corp. of Woburn. Elisia Saab and Kennedy participated in today’s ceremony. Key support for the new building has also come from Boston Scientific, which has donated equipment that will be used across various disciplines including engineering, chemistry, plastics and biology.

“The future of our region depends on the creative partnership of the public and private sectors. I am confident that together we will bring about innovation that will benefit our students and the economy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Meehan said. 

The time capsule was put in place during construction of Smith Hall, the first residence hall built at Lowell Textile Institute, now UMass Lowell’s North Campus. The construction was a first step in expanding the campus to accommodate a growing student body.

The time capsule’s letters, written as the United States was emerging from the dark days of World War II and entering a period of unprecedented economic and technological expansion, offer a unique perspective on the university’s role in a rapidly changing world. The letters capture an optimism and foresight that resonate today. 

In a letter dated April 26, 1947, Gov. Robert Bradford wrote: “There are some … who insist there is little future left to the world because of the arrival of the atomic age. But I am inclined to disagree…I have an idea that when this cornerstone is opened…youth will be about the same as it is today – enthusiastic, energetic, courageous and, I am sure, more knowing than ever.”

Several former Smith Hall residents shared their memories of the role the building played in their time on campus. “Smith Hall framed my experience at Lowell. It was my home, where my friends were…where I was mentored and where I mentored,” said Joseph Peznola ’87.

Looking to the future, UMass Lowell is assembling a new time capsule for the ETIC. UMass Lowell Student Government Association President Mike Mizzoni, a senior from Littleton, offered the first items for the new capsule, including the student newspaper The Connector; a brick from Smith Hall; a ball from the UMass Lowell 2010 NCAA championship field hockey team; a figure of school mascot Rowdy the River Hawk; an issue of TIME commemorating President Barack Obama’s election; a USB drive loaded with songs and other examples of pop culture; and letters from Gov. Deval Patrick, UMass Board of Trustees Chairman James Karam, Meehan, Wilson and Mizzoni. 

The new time capsule will be housed in a custom-designed, durable white plastic box – a nod to the plastics engineering research that will be conducted in the building – and will include copies of some of the contents of the Smith Hall capsule.

In his letter, Meehan wrote: “Today, we stand on the shoulders of the students who lived in Smith Hall and all alumni of our school who went on to help shape the world we occupy. Like our predecessors, we at UMass Lowell are dedicated to making a better nation and world for present and future generations. We hope you will look kindly on our efforts as you review past decades, and we trust that our values, our dreams, and our work have stood the test of time.” 

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 14,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education.
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