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U.S. Secretary of the Interior to Address UMass Lowell Commencement

University to Surpass Record Number of Graduates for Fifth Year in a Row


Contacts: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or or Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

LOWELL, Mass. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will deliver the address to the Class of 2012 at UMass Lowell’s undergraduate Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 26.

“Secretary Salazar has been a champion of conservation and protector of the environment during a lifetime of public service,” said UMass Lowell 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.” 

For the fifth year in a row, a record number of students – nearly 2,700 – will graduate from UMass Lowell. To accommodate graduates and their families, UMass Lowell will split Commencement into two ceremonies for the first time: 9 a.m. for bachelor’s degree recipients and 3 p.m. for those receiving master’s and doctoral degrees. Both ceremonies will take place at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, 300 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lowell.

“The record number of graduates we have seen in recent years is evidence of the growth in student success rates at UMass Lowell and the university’s commitment to helping students achieve their academic and career goals,” said Meehan, who has also seen undergraduate enrollment grow 37 percent over his five years leading the university.

Salazar, who also will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, will address more than 1,900 graduates expected to receive bachelor’s degrees at the morning ceremony. 

“With this talented group of young men and women about to enter the workforce, I know that our best days are ahead of us,” said Salazar.  “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.”

Salazar was nominated for the honorary degree by U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, who represents the city as part of the Fifth Congressional District. Tsongas invited the secretary to visit the Lowell National Historic Park, a great success story of the national park system, which he oversees. 

“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,” said Tsongas. “The extraordinary transformation of Lowell was ignited when Lowell National Historical Park was established within the city’s core mill and canal district, the first urban national park of its kind in the United States. Secretary Salazar leads the Department of the Interior with a keen appreciation for its mission to protect our public lands and natural resources for future generations. He is an ideal choice to deliver this year’s Commencement address at UMass Lowell and I look forward to welcoming him to our city next month.”

Salazar, 50th secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, has worked to usher in a new era of conservation to protect the nation’s lands, wildlife, history and culture; implement a diverse, comprehensive energy blueprint to power the country and grow the American economy; help build stronger, safer and more prosperous tribal communities; and tackle the water challenges facing the country. With oversight of land and vast resources off the nation’s coasts, the department has a critical role to play in the safe and responsible development of the nation’s energy and mineral resources. Salazar previously served as a U.S. senator from Colorado and, as a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was involved in every major bipartisan legislative effort on energy since 2005. Salazar previously served as Colorado attorney general, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and as the first chairman of Great Outdoors Colorado, a model for President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative in land conservation. 

In addition to Salazar, UMass Lowell will present honorary doctor of humane letters degrees to:

  • Retired Rear Adm. Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., is a champion for improving health who provided distinguished service for more than two decades as a leading federal government medical expert, officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and in the administrations of four presidents. A visionary leader who has been a major force in advancing women’s health, addressing emerging health threats like bioterrorism and obesity, and in fighting AIDS and violence, she was the first-ever deputy assistant secretary for women’s health and served as U.S. assistant surgeon general, senior global and e-health adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services and as White House health adviser. Her current work includes serving as director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, senior policy and medical adviser at amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and public health editor of the Huffington Post. She is the wife of U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, who will participate in the ceremony.
  • Robert S. Ward ’71 is chairman of Emergence Venture Partners, president of ExThera Medical Corp., and founder and former president of the Polymer Technology Group (PTG), now DSM Biomedical. Ward, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UMass Lowell, has 40 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of medical devices and novel biomaterials for critical applications, expertise in polymer science and technology, and holds numerous patents. He established the world’s first commercial manufacturing process for a ventricular assist device (artificial heart) by improving and transferring technology from Hershey Medical Center to Thoratec Corp., now the top cardiac assist company in the world. Ward and his wife Gail recently committed nearly $1 million in support of UMass Lowell initiatives, including the $600,000 Robert and Gail Ward Endowed Professorship in Biomedical Materials Development; $250,000 to establish the Robert and Gail Ward Biomedical Materials Laboratory in UMass Lowell’s new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, which opens this fall; and $100,000 to create an endowed scholarship fund for engineering students.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to John Pulichino ’67, chief executive officer of Group III International Ltd., a Florida corporation that designs, manufactures and markets travel gear products under the Wenger Swiss Army knife trademark as well as numerous private label brands. In the late 1970s, Pulichino worked for Polaroid Corp. as director of industrial engineering. He moved on to American Tourister in 1980, where he became president and CEO. Over his 14-year tenure, he grew company sales from $30 million to $150 million before the company was sold to Samsonite in 1993. Pulichino, who also holds a master’s degree in engineering management, earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial management at UMass Lowell. 

The honorary degree and distinguished alumni award recipients – Salazar, Blumenthal, Ward and Pulichino – as well as Markey and Tsongas will speak at the annual Commencement Eve Celebration to benefit student scholarships. Last year’s event raised more than $670,000. Scheduled for Friday, May 25 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, the event will also honor student academic and service award winners.

For more information on the honorees and Commencement activities, visit

UMass Lowell is a comprehensive, national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 15,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering, education, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, liberal arts, management, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.