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Convocation Urges Class of 2020 to Make a Difference

$1M Gift Announced to Establish Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility

Chancellor Moloney speaks at Convocation 2016
Chancellor Jacquie Moloney speaks to UMass Lowell's 2,900 new students at Convocation 2016.


Media contacts: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or and Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

LOWELL, Mass. – The largest-ever group of incoming students – 2,900 first-year and new transfer students – officially began their UMass Lowell careers today at Convocation.

The event, held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, included the announcement of a new $1 million gift from philanthropist Nancy Donahue to establish the Donahue Center for Business Ethics. The Donahue Center – which will be based at the Manning School of Business’ new home, the Pulichino Tong Business Center – will expand education in ethics to all majors, offer new research opportunities for faculty and students and develop ethics-focused programs and events for the university and the public.

“Through this center, we will teach the next generation of leaders about the importance of doing good while doing well,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, who presided over Convocation. 

Moloney is the first woman to lead the university in its history and recently marked the end of her first year as chancellor. She earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at UMass Lowell and like some in the audience at Convocation, Moloney was the first member of her family to attend college. 

“It doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was in your position; a new student, starting at this university, excited, uncertain and hopeful. Let me assure you of this: Your education will change your life. It changed mine,” Moloney said, adding that the new students should make time in between their studies and other activities to help those in need. “This is where I learned to put into action what I was learning in the classroom. This is where I learned about the ethical obligation each and every one of us has to make this world a better place. It all starts here for you, this day, this week, this year.”

The new freshmen and transfers are part of the largest student body – nearly 18,000 – in university history, a more than 50 percent increase since 2008 and include 589 new entrants to the university’s Honors College. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked UMass Lowell as the ninth-fastest growing public doctoral research institution in the nation, up from 10th last year. The 1,700-member freshman class is the most diverse ever (32 percent are from ethnically diverse backgrounds) and have the highest-ever average high-school GPA (3.59) and average SAT score (1179) for UMass Lowell. The Class of 2020 also includes the first group of students – approximately 130 with an average high-school GPA of 3.7 – to use the university’s SAT-optional admissions program, which allows high-achieving high-schoolers to apply without test scores by completing other requirements.

Throughout the Convocation ceremony, students were challenged to be engaged beyond the classroom on campus and in the community, and to set goals for success in life after graduation beyond the salary they will earn. 

Business ethics expert and author Corey Ciocchetti delivered a lively keynote address, using his own experiences to illustrate that true success is not necessarily defined by wealth or in other ways they might expect. He urged the students to seek peace and contentment, as well as true friendships, and to act with principle. 

“It is impossible to be truly happy if you are an unethical person,” said Ciocchetti, who teaches ethics at the University of Denver.

Convocation also served as an unofficial welcome to campus for Michael Vayda, UMass Lowell’s new provost, who, with Moloney, officially inducted the new students as members of the university community. 

“Like you, I am also a freshman and a transfer,” said Vayda, adding that he is “truly honored” to be serving in his new role overseeing academic affairs. “If I can offer you one piece of advice, it is that the path to success is in getting involved.” 

Student Government Association President James Christopher, a political science and philosophy major from Peabody, and Student Trustee Malinda Reed, an English and history major from Lowell, also participated in the Convocation ceremony. 

“It is my honor and a pleasure to welcome all of you to UMass Lowell,” Christopher said, who described how he felt attending his own Convocation three years ago. He urged students to get involved on campus through the university’s more than 200 student-run organizations, sharing how joining student government was one of his most valuable decisions. “I did not fully comprehend the vast amount of opportunities available at UMass Lowell…The UMass Lowell community will provide you with all of the resources you need to do all you want to do. Now, go get it!”

UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker Program – which teaches students from all majors entrepreneurial skills and how to take a team approach to develop and execute ideas to solve problems in business and the community – was highlighted at Convocation with a pitch contest by three student teams. The winner, chosen by a text vote of the audience, was eNable Lowell, which is working to provide prosthetic devices made with 3D printing to children all over the world. 

And finally, the new students were introduced to the university’s Athletics program by Director of Athletics Dana Skinner and an important UMass Lowell tradition: the singing of the school fight song, “River Hawk Pride.” Written by UMass Lowell Music Department faculty Dan Lutz and Debra-Nicole Huber, who also conducted the UMass Lowell Marching Band at Convocation, the song is sung by fans after every River Hawk home ice hockey game and on other special occasions.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,500 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, 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.