For the fifth year in a row, UMass Lowell awarded degrees to a record number of graduates — 2,900 — at commencement exercises at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. The number of students at the University has grown 37 percent over the past five years, a reflection of rising retention and graduation rates, as well as enrollment growth.
The class of 2012 includes eight students with perfect 4.0 grade point averages and residents of 39 U.S. states and 69 nations. Thirty-six percent graduated with honors.
UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan presided over the ceremony, saying, “The class of 2012 has seen global conflict, economic turmoil and other issues unfold during their years in college, but by completing the education we’re celebrating today, you are in a far better position to not only support yourselves, but also to help forge the solutions we desperately need in today’s world. I am confident that you are ready, willing and able to offer your skills and strengths to help solve society’s challenges. This commonwealth and this country need you.”
Keynote speaker U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told the graduates, “My father would often tell us that he couldn’t leave us a legacy of material things, but what he and my mom could do was make sure we received a good education. He would say that he preferred it that way because no one could ever take your education away.” Salazar also called on Congress to address the issue of college affordability by preventing the interest rate increase on student loans scheduled to take effect July 1.
Salazar praised the cooperation between the University, City of Lowell and Lowell National Historical Park, calling them “great examples for all the rest of America.” In calling on graduates to “seek to leave the next generation in a better place,” Salazar evoked the legacy of Lowell’s native son, the late Sen. Paul Tsongas, who spurred the renaissance of his community.