Skip to Main Content

UMass Lowell Graduates, ‘The World Needs You’

Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and journalist Judy Woodruff address graduates; Oscar winner Chris Cooper receives honorary degree

Chancellor Moloney at commencement. Photo by Tory Germann


LOWELL, Mass. – Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and award-winning journalist Judy Woodruff today addressed a record number of graduates at UMass Lowell’s Commencement ceremonies.
Woodruff told the graduates that they are entering a “pretty robust economy” where two-thirds of employers are now planning to hire recent grads this year — the best outlook since 2007. “That is good news. But what matters as much is are you going to do what you really want to do? Are you going to be able to contribute in a way that fulfills you? I’m going to make the bold prediction that you will, because of your experiences here at UMass Lowell.”
Woodruff is the co-anchor and managing editor of the “PBS NewsHour with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff” and has covered politics and other news for more than three decades for PBS, CNN and NBC. A graduate of Duke University, where she is a trustee emerita and served as a visiting professor of public policy, she is the founding co-chairwoman of the International Women’s Media Foundation and a member of several boards of trustees, including those of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum. Her numerous honors include the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism/Television and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Noting that students are graduating in the middle of an election season, Woodruff implored the Class of 2016 to pay attention to politics and vote. “We are passing along to you a world in a state of top-to-bottom transition. The world needs you; your country needs you.”
Lockhart addressed graduates at the afternoon ceremony. Lockhart, who celebrated his 20th anniversary leading the Boston Pops in 2015, has directed more than 1,700 Boston Pops concerts at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, as well as on more than 40 tours. He and the Pops have participated in events including Super Bowl XXXVI, the 2013 Boston Red Sox World Series ring ceremony, the memorial service for the Boston Marathon bombing victims and the annual July 4 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. A graduate of Furman University and Carnegie Mellon University, Lockhart also serves as the principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra in London, where he led the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II, and artistic director of the Brevard Music Center summer institute and festival in North Carolina.
He told graduates it is OK not to be exactly sure about what life may hold for them now and in the future. “No one’s life, at least not one you’d care to live, is a straight line,” urging them to “live creatively” and throughout their lives, continue to learn as they have at UMass Lowell.
Both Lockhart and Woodruff were presented with honorary degrees. Academy Award-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife, actress and author Marianne Leone were also presented with honorary degrees at the morning ceremony. Cooper is regarded as one of the most respected character actors of our time and has appeared in numerous films, including “Adaptation,” for which he received an Oscar and Golden Globe Award, and his latest projects include the Hulu original miniseries based on Stephen King’s novel “11/22/63” and the film “Coming Through the Rye,” in which he portrays author J.D. Salinger. Leone, who appeared in the Golden Globe-nominated film “Joy” and on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Jesse, A Mother’s Story,” which chronicles the remarkable life and untimely death of their son at age 17. The Jesse Cooper Foundation supports inclusion via the Federation for Children with Special Needs and AccesSportAmerica, which provides sports for disabled children and adults.
Woodruff recognized Cooper and Leone’s work on behalf of those with disabilities in her Commencement address, praising them for taking “the toughest of circumstances and turning it into something that heals.”
The Class of 2016 received their degrees – bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates – at two ceremonies at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell to accommodate the 3,720 graduates, up from 3,531 last year and a record number for the ninth consecutive year. The continued increase in diplomas awarded reflects UMass Lowell’s 50 percent increase in enrollment since 2007 and climbing student success rates.
UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney presided over both ceremonies, her first as the leader of the university from which she earned two degrees of her own, a bachelor’s and a doctorate. Moloney is the first woman to serve as UMass Lowell’s chancellor.
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to many of you at campus events and have been touched by the deep and abiding love you have for UMass Lowell and the many experiences you have had with friends, faculty and staff who brought out the best in you and who were there for you when you needed them most. I hope you will hold those friendships and memories close and carry them with you as you go out into the world,” Moloney said to the graduates. As a proud UMass Lowell alumna, I welcome you to an alumni community united in River Hawk spirit and bound by the values and experiences you shared as part of your UMass Lowell education.”
For the first time, a mother and daughter, Jocelyne and Marcelle Durrenberger of Hudson, were selected to deliver the student Commencement addresses. Jocelyne received a doctor of nursing practice degree while her daughter, who is one in a set of triplets, received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
“Re-invention is one motto of this millennium. The University of Massachusetts Lowell has been a model for re-invention since long before the turn of this century and continues to be so. My fellow graduates, we will all be ‘re-inventors’ in our lives, influenced by our experience at UMass Lowell,” said Jocelyne Durrenberger, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1984 at what was then the University of Lowell. Later, she said she felt called to become a nurse, which eventually led her to pursue a doctoral degree at her alma mater. She noted UMass Lowell holds many opportunities for students to re-invent themselves and that research shows that the average millennial will hold a dozen or more jobs in their lifetime. “As UMass Lowell students, we are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the artists who can embrace these life changes readily.”
“While many of us see the definition of success as coming out of school with a job or headed to grad school, I think we are here to redefine success. We are entrepreneurs, educators, travelers and always students,” Marcelle Durrenberger told her fellow graduates. “So here we are, in the last step as UMass Lowell graduates, poised for action and ready to put our countless hours of education to use.”  
More than 1,100 members of UMass Lowell’s Class of 2016 graduated today with honors, including 99 seniors who earned 4.0 grade-point averages. The class is comprised of residents of 43 states and 97 countries, and nearly a third of graduates identify themselves as being from a diverse background. Moloney praised the Class of 2016 during her speech for helping create an inclusive campus “where everyone from all walks of life is treated equally and respectfully.”
UMass President Marty Meehan, who presided over the past eight UMass Lowell Commencements as chancellor, conferred degrees – doctorates, master’s and bachelor’s – to the graduates. Meehan, who is also a UMass Lowell alumnus, said he is proud of Moloney’s leadership.
“It makes me feel really good to come back and see the university doing so well,” Meehan said. “The foundation you received from this university can lead you to accomplish anything you set out in your life to accomplish. There’s nothing you cannot do.”
The class gift was presented by Christopher Nunez of Lowell, senior class president. Participants in the ceremonies also included members of the UMass Board of Trustees, including Philip Johnston and UMass Lowell student trustee Amanda Robinson of Hingham, who received her bachelor’s degree in business administration today; state Sen. Eileen Donoghue; state Rep. Rady Mom, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian; Lowell Mayor Edward Kennedy; Andre Dubus III, bestselling author and UMass Lowell English faculty member; the UMass Lowell Brass Choir; UMass Lowell Chamber Singers; the UMass Lowell Army and Air Force ROTC Color Guard; and Kevin Barry Irish American Pipes and Drums.
At the afternoon ceremony, UMass Lowell presented honors to two notable alumni:
·       John Kennedy ’70, retired president and chief financial officer of Nova Ventures Corp., received an honorary doctorate of humane letters in recognition of his long record of philanthropy and commitment to UMass Lowell. The William J. and John F. Kennedy College of Sciences, named by the university earlier this year, honors both John Kennedy, who earned a mathematics degree from UMass Lowell’s predecessor, Lowell Technological Institute, and his late brother. John Kennedy, who founded and led several successful companies, including Nova Analytics and Nova Technologies, has endowed several scholarships and provided support for research and athletics facilities at UMass Lowell, as well as serving on a variety of committees. He lives in Naples, Fla., and Johns Island, S.C.
·       L. Donald LaTorre ’59,’07(H) was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award. President of L&G Management Consultants, which he formed after retiring as president and chief operating officer of Engelhard Corp, LaTorre’s career also includes a long history with Velcro USA, BASF Corp. and Diamond Shamrock Corp. LaTorre, who earned a textile chemistry degree at Lowell Technological Institute, serves on several UMass Lowell advisory boards and has volunteered as a judge in the annual DifferenceMakers Idea Challenge. LaTorre and his wife, Gloria, who live in Holmes Beach, Fla., and Sparta, N.J., have supported the university through a variety of scholarship funds and other initiatives.
The honorary degree and alumni award recipients were recognized along with top student award winners at the Commencement Eve Celebration on Friday, May 13 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. The annual event has raised millions of dollars for student scholarships since it was first held in 2008.
The university’s three co-valedictorians – who were presented with the Trustees’ Key in recognition of the perfect 4.0 grade-point averages they have maintained for their entire college career at UMass Lowell – are Ayah Awadallah of Haverhill, Timothy Miskell of Woburn and Shivam Patel of Lowell. In addition, they received the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement, which recognizes the top achievers in each of the university’s schools and colleges, as well as its Division of Online and Continuing Education.
Chancellor’s Medals for Academic Achievement were also awarded to Sherry Bhalla of Malden, a clinical lab sciences major (College of Health Sciences); William Boag of Dracut, a computer science major (Kennedy College of Sciences); Katherine Clair of Woburn, a business administration major (Manning School of Business); Clarissa Eaton of Ayer, an English major (Division of Online and Continuing Education); Federico Esparza of Kansas City, Mo., a computer science major (Division of Online and Continuing Education); David Lordan of Danvers, a computer science major (Kennedy College of Sciences); Mary McGovern of Landeck, Austria, a psychology major (Division of Online and Continuing Education); Jordan Parris of Orleans, a mechanical engineering major (Francis College of Engineering); Alexandra Sneider of Concord, a chemical engineering major (Francis College of Engineering) and Martha Stackhouse of Reading, a clinical lab sciences major (College of Health Sciences).
The University Scholar-Athlete Award was given to Marielle Handley of Durham, Conn., an exercise physiology major and member of the women’s softball team.
For the first time, UMass Lowell awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Diversity and Inclusion, which were presented to OfaLiz Ejaife of Lowell, who received a master’s degree in community social psychology, and Travis Overton of Billerica, who received a bachelor’s in sociology and psychology.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service was presented to Nunez and Robinson, as well as Fabio Braz of Acton, a civil and environmental engineering major; Kelly Freitas of Manchester, N.H., a graphic design major; Kevin Goddu of Somerset, a music studies major; Matilda Matovu of Tewksbury, a biology and political science major; and Zachary Zuber of Lowell, an exercise physiology major.
The University Medal for Community Service was presented to Katherine Bilodeau of Nashua, N.H., an exercise physiology major; Patrick Facendola of Dracut, a plastics engineering major; Hardeep Singh Gill of Newark, Del., a graduate student in science and physics; Nicole Hamel of Methuen, a nursing major; Syndhia Mungalachaletty of Tewksbury, a business administration major; and Kristina Murray of Wilmington, an exercise physiology major.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,500 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.