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Bill Nye Tells UMass Lowell Class of 2014 to ‘Change the World’

‘Science Guy’ and Howard Koh Address Record Number of Graduates

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, speaks at UMass Lowell's 2014 Commencement
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, delivers the Morning Commencement address at the Tsongas Center.


Contacts:    Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 (w), 978-758-4664 (c) or
      Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

LOWELL, Mass. – Bill Nye – scientist, engineer, author and inventor best known as “the Science Guy” from his award-winning TV show – today challenged UMass Lowell graduates to overcome obstacles like politics and naysayers to find solutions to a host of problems ranging from climate change to the threat of an asteroid impact.

“You are UMass Lowell graduates, you are really among the best in the world at thinking about new arrangements, new tools and new elegantly engineered designs to reach for what I like to call ‘the high-hanging fruit’ – the big prizes and great big prizes. That’s what we want you to do for us. I’m not kidding; change the world in new, exciting and big ways,” Nye, who also heads the Planetary Society, told graduates.

Nye and U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh today spoke to a record number of graduates – 3,478 – at two Commencement ceremonies held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. 

“So Class of 2014, here’s wishing you the joy of discovery. Keep reaching. Keep seeking. Keep using your abilities to bring out the best in those around you, and let them bring out the best in you. As you do, you can and you will, dare I say it, change the world!” said Nye, who was presented with a Chancellor’s Medal by UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. Both Nye and Meehan wore bowties – Nye’s signature neckwear – with the UMass Lowell logo.

Meehan presided over both the morning ceremony – at which Nye spoke to associate’s and bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Sciences; Francis College of Engineering; and Manning School of Business – and the afternoon ceremony at which Koh addressed recipients of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Health Sciences and master’s and doctoral degrees from the Graduate School of Education, and the university’s four other schools and colleges.

“As you prepare for the future, I hope you will fully understand that leadership is fundamentally about encouraging the heart…Fundamentally, it’s about recognizing people, enabling people, caring for people and connecting with people,” Koh said. “Be willing to challenge the odds to make a difference. Leaders are those who refuse to accept the status quo. They overcome their fears, step into the unknown and accept being the underdog.”

This is the third year in a row that UMass Lowell has held two Commencement ceremonies to accommodate the record number of graduates – up 10 percent over last year and 77 percent since 2008 – that are evidence of the university’s 45 percent increase in enrollment since 2007 and climbing student success rates. 

“The UMass Lowell community is proud of what you have achieved. This university’s goal is to provide a transformational education for its students. As we strive for excellence in every aspect of the university, we are also transforming campus life at UMass Lowell. The Class of 2014, more than any in my seven years as chancellor, has experienced this metamorphosis,” Meehan told graduates. “You have enjoyed the best this university has ever had to offer: state-of-the art technology in the classrooms, laboratories and libraries; new and renovated academic buildings, residence halls and dining facilities; the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell and the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center becoming hubs of university life; the elevation of all sports to Division I; and the doubling of the number of student organizations. The changes are remarkable and they will continue.”

UMass Lowell recognized the following distinguished individuals with honorary degrees:
  • Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University in Ireland, one of UMass Lowell’s international partner institutions. A teacher and researcher of physics, biomedical diagnostics and nanobiophotonics, MacCraith is internationally renowned for his work in optical chemical sensors and biosensors. He served as a visiting scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., working on biowarfare detection before becoming founding director of the National Centre for Sensor Research at Dublin City University. 
  • Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, was presented with an honorary degree by UMass Lowell at a ceremony in November 2013. McAleese served two terms as president from 1997 through 2011 and was the first person born in Northern Ireland to hold the office. Her tenure as president of the Irish Republic, deemed “Building Bridges,” was notable for the attention she gave to peace and reconciliation in the North. Prior to being elected president, McAleese earned a law degree and worked as a barrister, broadcast journalist and professor. 
  • John Pulichino ’67 and Joy Tong, successful entrepreneurs and supporters of student scholarships and other initiatives at UMass Lowell, and for whom the new Pulichino Tong Business Building will be named. Ground was broken for the building, the new home of the Manning School of Business, at a ceremony on Friday, May 16. Tong – an award-winning creative force in the travel-goods industry and holder of numerous patents – is the founder, president and creative director of Group III International Ltd., which designs, manufactures and markets travel gear under the Wenger Swiss Army Knife and BMW trademarks, and numerous private-label brands. Pulichino is the CEO of Group III, which has generated more than $600 million in sales since 2003, and is the former president and CEO of American Tourister. Pulichino, who began his career with Polaroid Corp., earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from what was then Lowell Technological Institute and is the recipient of UMass Lowell’s 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award. Pulichino and Tong, who are married and live in Florida, are members of the Chancellor’s Circle of Distinction.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Gerald Colella ’78 and Joyce (Liakos) Colella ’77 of Seabrook, N.H., and Naples, Fla. The Colellas, who met as students at what was then the University of Lowell, have generously supported the Honors Fellows Scholarship Fund, UMass Lowell Fund and Manning School of Business. Gerald Colella is president and CEO of Andover-based MKS Instruments, a global provider of instruments, subsystems and process control solutions for advanced manufacturing with operations in 12 countries. He holds a degree in secondary education from UMass Lowell and an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. Joyce Colella dedicated many years of service to education as an elementary school teacher in New Hampshire and Lowell before retiring in 2005. A Lowell native, she earned degrees in history and elementary education at UMass Lowell and a master’s of education from Fitchburg State University. 

The honorary degree and alumni award recipients were honored along with top student award winners at the Commencement Eve Celebration on Friday, May 16. Co-valedictorians Courtney James of Tyngsboro, a biology major, and James McDermott of Tewksbury, a civil engineering major, were presented with the Trustees Key for completing all four years of undergraduate study at the university with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Both also received the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement, James for the College of Sciences and McDermott for the Francis College of Engineering.

Chancellor’s Medals for Academic Achievement, presented to graduates from each of the university’s schools and colleges, were also awarded to Victoria Crenshaw of Billerica, an English major (College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences); Jacinta Uzoigwe of Lowell, clinical lab sciences (College of Health Sciences); Per Onsager of Shirley, civil engineering major (Francis College of Engineering); Daniel Cook of Beverly and Kimberly Howell of Braintree, both business administration majors (Manning School of Business); and Robert Gengler of Covington, Ohio, information technology (Division of Online and Continuing Studies). 

The University Scholar-Athlete Award went to Benjamin Pare of Methuen, a biology major and member of the men’s cross-country and track teams.

The Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service was awarded to Marie-Louise Aka of Lowell, a psychology major; Kimberly Andrade of Plaistow, N.H., nursing; Kimberly Chao of Chelmsford, business administration; Corey Lanier of Dracut, criminal justice; Jimmy Ortiz of Lawrence, psychology; Marissa Siraco of Revere, exercise physiology; and Heather Wyatt of Lowell, psychology. 

Lanier, served as the student speaker at the morning ceremony. “The UMass Lowell student is a hardworking and dedicated student. Each and every one of us is not given this degree; we had to earn this privilege of calling ourselves UMass Lowell alumni,” Lanier said. “I feel as UMass Lowell graduates, we are better prepared for the world than anyone else. We’ve heard our slogan countless times: work-ready, life-ready and world-ready. But this university really takes that to heart. We’ve been given countless opportunities for experiential learning. We’ve been able to immerse ourselves in various cultures...These lessons have shaped us as people and left us knowing more about the world around us.”

Ashley Corbett of Stoneham, who received her doctoral degree in physical therapy today, was the student speaker at the afternoon ceremony. “My last three years at our university were very well spent. I learned an incredible amount – more than I thought possible. I’ve made connections with students and faculty that will last a lifetime. Just like all of you, I took every opportunity to gain experience and prepare for a career in my field. In what felt like the blink of an eye, we have each developed into confident, resourceful professionals…The most interesting part of each of our stories has yet to be written. We did not pursue our degrees just to hang them on our walls and stop there. We sought out these skills and knowledge so that we would be prepared to do something with it, to make a difference, to build something great, to change someone else’s life or even to change the world.”

Brittany Andersen of Boxborough, an English major, received both the Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service and the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

The University Medal for Community Service was presented to Weeldens Louis of Lowell, management; Mallory Mulligan of Nashua, N.H., business administration; Rachel Paquette of Dracut, biology; Deborah Paul of Walpole, sociology; Katerina Thanopoulos of Saugus, psychology; Carol Thibodeau of Bedford, criminal justice; and Longyun Zhou of Lowell, business administration. 

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, engineering, education, fine arts, health, humanities, liberal arts, 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.