LOWELL, Mass. – Award-winning author and historian Jon Meacham and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, who leaves office this year after a decade serving Massachusetts’ 3rd District, delivered Commencement addresses to UMass Lowell’s Class of 2018.
The university celebrated its 4,358 graduates – its largest class for the 11th consecutive year – at two ceremonies today at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
Meacham – whose new book on the nation’s political divide and the answers that may be found in history, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” debuted at No. 1 on this week’s New York Times best-seller list – spoke at the morning ceremony, where he was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney.
“What can we learn from the past as we engage the present? That the perfect should not be the enemy of the good; that compromise is the oxygen of a free government; and that we learn most from the past not by looking up at people from our history adoringly or looking down on them condescendingly, but looking them in the eye and taking their measure as human beings, not as gods, so that we can learn how they overcame the obstacles of their own time,” said Meacham, who is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and whose books include biographies of Thomas Jefferson, George H.W. Bush and Andrew Jackson, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for biography. “Despite the partisan ferocity of the moment, if we listen closely, very closely, we can hear the music of Abraham Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature.’ Your task, in all the years ahead, is to keep an ear attuned to those notes. UMass Lowell has taught you how to hear that music.”
Already the recipient of an honorary degree from UMass Lowell, Tsongas was presented with the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service today in recognition of her tireless work for her district, which includes the university, since her election in 2007.
Tsongas addressed graduates at the afternoon ceremony in the building named for her late husband, U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, urging them to use their UMass Lowell education to take action.
“As you leave this afternoon, I hope you will always remember that the power that resides in you, that was nurtured and educated at this remarkable university, can be engaged as a catalyst for change, in your lives, in the lives of a community, of a nation and of our world. You are the future change makers. May you embrace this opportunity with courage and boldness,” said Tsongas, who is a graduate of Smith College and Boston University School of Law and a former dean of Middlesex Community College.
Moloney, a two-time graduate of UMass Lowell, also addressed the recipients of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
“Graduates, throughout your time here, you’ve demonstrated extraordinary leadership, innovation and compassion. We saw it when you spent your breaks in Haiti working on clean water solutions and traveling across the world to distribute prosthetic limbs to children. We saw it when you competed in our DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge, pitching entrepreneurial solutions to real-world problems in health, education, energy and security, and went on to found companies, launch nonprofits and secure patents. We saw it as you designed robots and satellites and took action to green our campus and protect our planet,” Moloney said. “In these and a thousand other ways, you exemplify the characteristics of UMass Lowell graduates: tenacious, hardworking and driven to lift the other up and make the world a better place.”
More than 1,400 members of UMass Lowell’s Class of 2018 graduated today with honors, including 120 with 4.0 grade-point averages. The graduates represent 36 states and 97 countries.
“With your UMass Lowell education, you can achieve anything. I know, because I have sat exactly where you are,” said UMass President Marty Meehan, who today marked the 40th anniversary of his own graduation from UMass Lowell.
The student Commencement address at the morning ceremony was delivered by Yehya Merhi of Manchester, N.H., who received his degree in mechanical engineering, to graduates from the Francis College of Engineering, Kennedy College of Sciences, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences and intercampus programs.
“UMass Lowell opened doors for us and gave us all the tools we needed in the pursuit of what we came here looking for in the first place. UMass Lowell gave us the world in our hands,” Mehri told fellow graduates, adding that through the university’s co-op program, he started working for a medical device company in a job that has turned into a career.
Zayna Basma of Shirley, a political science major who also minored in Arabic studies and Spanish and received a Chancellor’s Medal for Community Service, delivered the student address at the afternoon ceremony to graduates of the College of Education; College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; and the Manning School of Business.
“I was taught that with every opportunity I am given, there is an opportunity to give back to others. My parents instilled in me a deeply rooted value for education that allowed me to understand the significance of what UMass Lowell had to offer,” said Basma. “It is now our role to continue to make an impact on our future communities. … Just as our professors, staff, families and friends invested in us, it is now our time to use the power of our education to give hope to those who are less fortunate.”
The class gift was presented by Student Government Association President Lisa Degou of Lowell, a math major and recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service, and Senior Class President Kailyn MacNeil of Westford, a criminal justice and psychology major who won two of this year’s top academic awards, the Trustees Key and Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement.
Participants in the ceremonies also included members of the UMass Board of Trustees Mary Burns, who is a UMass Lowell graduate, and UMass Lowell student trustee Malinda Reed of Lowell, who graduated today with a degree in English and history; state Rep. Diana DiZoglio; Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian; Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan; Lowell Mayor William Samaras and City Councilors Karen Cirillo and John Leahy; the UMass Lowell Brass Choir; UMass Lowell Chamber Signers, the UMass Lowell Army and Air Force ROTC Color Guard; and Kevin Barry Irish American Pipe and Drums.
In addition to Meacham, UMass Lowell recognized the following with honorary doctorates of humane letters:
James Dandeneau ’80 of Dayville, Conn., a graduate of UMass Lowell’s renowned plastics engineering program who has gone on to found and serve as president and CEO of Putnam Plastics, a leading medical-device maker, and is the owner of Connecticut National Golf Course. In recognition of the support by Dandeneau and his family – wife Deb, daughter Lauren and son Ryan, a 2010 UMass Lowell graduate – of scholarships, research and academic facilities at UMass Lowell, the university yesterday renamed one of its buildings Dandeneau Hall, which will be home to student computer and robotics labs, as well as space for engineering and computer science faculty.
Temba Maqubela, recipient of the Desmond Tutu Social Justice Award and headmaster of Groton School. Born in South Africa, Maqubela was arrested for anti-apartheid activism and left his home country, first for Botswana and then Nigeria. He earned degrees in chemistry and taught at a public school in New York before spending nearly three decades at Phillips Academy in Andover in roles including dean of faculty and director of a math and science program for students from underrepresented populations. At Groton School, he has led the GRoton Accessibility and INclusion initiative (GRAIN) to ensure that deserving students are never denied a Groton education for financial reasons and developed the GRoton Accelerate Challenge Enrich (GRACE) program to propel all students forward.
Shuji Nakamura, Nobel Prize winner in physics and holder of more than 200 patents who is credited with the invention of energy-efficient blue light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. A 2015 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and recipient of honors including the Benjamin Franklin Medal and Global Energy Prize, even an Emmy, he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Tokushima in Japan and is the Cree Professor in Solid State Lighting and Display at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nakamura was presented with his degree at the university’s Tripathy Endowed Memorial Lecture last month.
The Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Mark Russell ’83, Raytheon Corp. vice president of engineering, technology and mission assurance, who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at UMass Lowell. He has served on advisory boards to the university’s Francis College of Engineering and was inducted into the Francis Academy of Distinguished Engineers, as well as providing support for the establishment of the Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute (RURI) to advance innovative technologies in flexible and printed electronics, which has given UMass Lowell students the opportunity to work side-by-side with Raytheon and faculty researchers on campus.
The honorees were recognized along with top student award winners at the Commencement Eve Celebration on Friday, May 18 at the University Crossing student center. The annual fundraiser for scholarships has generated millions of dollars to benefit students since 2008.
The university presented Trustees Keys to four graduates in recognition of the perfect 4.0 grade-point averages they maintained over all eight semesters at UMass Lowell: Kritameth Pongcheewin of Chelmsford, a biology major; Nicholas Raymond of Chelmsford, a math major; Kevin Sargent of Dracut, a physics major; and MacNeil.
Each Trustees Key recipient was also honored with the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement, which recognizes the top undergraduate achievers in each of UMass Lowell’s schools and colleges, as well as its Division of Online and Continuing Education.
Academic medals were awarded to: political science major William Berner of Milford, art major Stephanie Laflamme of Westford and MacNeil for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; electrical engineering major Andrew Stringer of Lowell and mechanical engineering major Isaac Whipple of Somerville for the Francis College of Engineering; biology majors Anna Barbeau of Methuen, Stephanie Howes of Burlington and Duyen Le of Worcester, computer science majors Michael Bertucci of Hudson and Lukas Lazarek and Huong Nguyen of Lowell, math major Thomas Heywosz of Charlton and Pongcheewin, Raymond and Sargent for the Kennedy College of Sciences; business administration majors Joshua Bedard of Dracut and Jessica Carroll of North Andover for the Manning School of Business; clinical lab sciences major Ellen Panetto of Burlington and exercise physiology major George Sam of Waltham for the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences; and information technology major David Barber of Andover, psychology major Kristy Marr of Plaistow, N.H., criminal justice major David Seidman of Vineyard Haven and English major Robert Thorpe of Monson for the Division of Online and Continuing Education.
UMass Lowell awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Diversity and Inclusion to psychology major David Aguiar of Fall River.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service was presented to Roma Aurora of North Andover, a business administration major; Robert Callahan of Chelmsford, a criminal justice major; Josephine Garfield of Lowell, a chemistry major; Ralph Saint-Louis of Lowell, a biology major; Mariam Taha of Medford, an exercise physiology major; and Degou. The Chancellor’s Medal for Community Service was presented to Omar Abdelaal of Lowell, a mechanical engineering major; Yonnie Collins of Haverhill, an exercise physiology major; Katherine Elwell of Tewksbury, a mechanical engineering major; Syeda Nizami of Lowell, an English major; Jennifer Vivier of Dracut, an art major; and Basma.
The University Scholar-Athlete Award was given to two members of the women's cross country and track and field teams: Kerstin Darsney of Rowley, a history and psychology major, and Rachel Eatherton of Tewksbury, who received her degree in an exercise physiology.
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 18,000 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. www.uml.edu