Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, the first woman to preside over Commencement in the university’s nearly 120-year history, congratulated the largest graduating class ever on its distinguished achievements and challenged grads to continue making a difference in their lives and careers.
“It is an honor to celebrate this important milestone with you,” Moloney told the Class of 2016 during ceremonies at the Tsongas Center — her first Commencement exercises as Chancellor. “As a class, you have been a part of one of the most remarkable transformations of any public university in the country.”
The graduating class of 3,720 set a record for the ninth consecutive year. Moloney noted that more than 1,100 of those students graduated with honors and 99 had a perfect 4.0 GPA. They hailed from 43 states and 97 countries.
“I’ve talked to many of you at campus events and 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,” Moloney said. “I hope you will hold those friendships and memories close and carry them with you as you go out into the world.”
Journalist Judy Woodruff, co-anchor and managing editor of the “PBS NewsHour,” delivered the morning’s Commencement address to graduates from the College of Fine Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Health Sciences and the Graduate School of Education.
Woodruff, who was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters, reported that graduates are entering a “pretty robust economy” where two-thirds of employers are now planning to higher recent grads this year — the best outlook since 2007.
“That is good news,” Woodruff said. “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.”
Noting that students are graduating in the middle of an election season — “In case you were too busy studying to notice” — Woodruff implored grads to pay attention to politics and vote.
“Don’t bow to easy, unearned cynicism,” she said. “We are passing along to you a world in a state of top-to-bottom transition. ... The world needs you; your country needs you. We welcome you with open arms.”
Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, who was also presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters, addressed students from the College of Engineering, Kennedy College of Sciences and the Manning School of Business, as well as Intercampus Programs, in the afternoon ceremony.
“This is a triumphant day but also a frightening one… My number one advice to you is don’t panic. College is not a bow and you are not an arrow. No one’s life, at least not one you’d care to live, is a straight line,” said Lockhart, who also urged graduates to look up so as not to confuse virtual reality with reality.
Academy Award-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife, author and actress Marianne Leone Cooper, received honorary degrees in the morning ceremony.
In the afternoon ceremony, an honorary doctorate of humane letters was presented to John Kennedy ’70, the retired president and chief financial officer of Nova Ventures Corp., and namesake of the Kennedy College of Sciences. L. Donald LaTorre ’59, ’07(H), president of L&G Management Consultants, received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
UMass President Marty Meehan ’78, who presided over the past eight UMass Lowell Commencements as Chancellor, conferred degrees to 136 Doctoral, 1,022 Master’s and 2,503 Baccalaureate recipients. He remarked how proud he was of Chancellor 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.”
For the first time, a mother and daughter — Jocelyne and Marcelle Durrenberger of Hudson, Mass. — delivered the student Commencement addresses. Jocelyne, who received a doctor of nursing practice degree, spoke at the morning ceremony. Her daughter Marcelle, who received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, addressed the afternoon ceremony.
Citing recent studies that show graduates today will hold more than a dozen different jobs during their career, Jocelyn Durrenberger said, “As UMass Lowell students, we are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the artists who can embrace these life changes readily. … I challenge you to find your bliss and follow it.”
Senior Class President Christopher Nunez presented Chancellor Moloney with the Senior Class Gift.
The ceremonies, which were the 25th since the formation of UMass Lowell in 1991, also included Provost Donald Pierson, members of the UMass Board of Trustees, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, state Rep. Rady Mom, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and Lowell Mayor Edward Kennedy.
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