The UMass Lowell Marching Band -- nearly 100 strong -- eased out of a bold, brassy version of “The Final Countdown,” and the procession music began exactly on time, as dozens of robed officials and special guests strode onto the stage.
Over the next two hours, the university’s largest, most academically qualified and most diverse incoming class filled half the Tsongas Center’s bowl for Convocation, the formal beginning to their academic adventure at UMass Lowell.
Freshman and transfer students got a warm welcome, some reassurance and a pep talk the day before classes began.
During her remarks to students, Chancellor Jacquie Moloney
announced that Lowell civic, cultural and humanitarian benefactor Nancy Donahue not only sponsored the day’s keynote speaker, but gifted $1 million to create the Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility.
“We take seriously your belief in teaching the next generation the importance of doing good while doing well,” Moloney told Donahue, seated nearby on the stage.
“God knows, the world needs your help right now,” Moloney said to students, pointing to floods in Louisiana, the Zika virus in Florida and those affected by hate crimes and terrorism.
Make a difference to a world that needs you, the morning’s speakers told students. Have fun. Work hard. Cheer hard. Embrace opportunity. Get enough sleep.
And don’t ever chase money for happiness.
That was the message of Corey Ciocchetti, whose academic credentials landed him a plum lawyer’s job right out of Duke University School of Law. He hated it.
“I hate this job,” he told his wife, expecting sympathy. “I want to quit. Is that okay?”
“Corey,” she said, “I never intended to marry a quitter.”
“If I’d have known you’d say that,” he said, “I would have called my mom.”
Ciocchetti now teaches business and legal studies in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, and his book, “Real Rabbits: Chasing an Authentic Life,” encourages readers to uphold ethical standards in the workplace and everyday life.
Ciocchetti sprinkled humor throughout his talk, but he made his points: live within modest means, since “you can never get enough of what you don’t need to really make you happy.” Chase, instead, “peace and contentment.” Find five good friends. Laugh at yourself. Develop your character by listening to your conscience. Work to fix what is wrong.
“Leave a legacy at this place,” he advised.
Ciocchetti earned a standing ovation.
In an example of the university’s dedication to fixing problems, students got an introduction to the DifferenceMaker
program, as three student teams made three-minute pitches on the stage for products they developed. Students voted by text, selecting eNABLE Lowell’s 3-D printed prosthetic hand as winner.
They also met new Provost Michael Vayda
, who arrived in June and introduced himself as “a freshman and a transfer, too.”
“We’re here to support you,” said Vayda. “Engage with us and ask for assistance if you need it.”
“The speakers were all interesting people,” said Ryan Brennan, a computer science major who arrived on campus Friday from Waltham. “College is going to be a huge change. One of the reasons I picked Lowell was the variety of people. Sometimes, with the computer science schools, there’s just one kind of person. But that won’t be the case here and I’m really looking forward to that.”
“I’m really excited to go to classes right now,” said biomedical engineering major Angelina Nguyen of Revere, who headed to the post-Convocation barbeque with her twin sister, Angelisa. “That was just so cool. I loved how they said don’t do something for the money. I’m here because I want to help people with what I learn.”
The twins, first-generation college students, said it will be a change for their parents, too, immigrants from Vietnam.
“The tradition is that the children always lived at home until marriage,” said Angelina. “And we are here.”
“It got me really thinking about things when they started talking about money not making you happy,” added Angelisa, a mechanical engineering major. “I’m here for very different reasons. To be happy, yes, but not for money.”