An old color photo of a hang glider soaring over a beach

For more than two decades, students experienced the thrill of flight with the University of Lowell Hang Gliding Club. Founded in 1974 by a pair of faculty members, Bill Blood and the late John Kelly, the club combined classroom instruction on safety and the mechanics of gliders with weekend flying lessons on small hills around the area. Club participation satisfied students’ one-credit physical education requirement (when that was a thing).

“We had a good bunch of kids,” says the now-90-year-old Blood, who worked as an engineering lab technician at the university from 1966 to 1996. “They never seemed too nervous. We’d start them on flat ground so they could get the feel for it and then work up to hills.”

For 12 years, the club hosted an intercollegiate hang gliding meet over Columbus Day weekend in Claremont, N.H. The annual event drew hundreds of competitors from schools across the U.S. and Canada, including MIT, the University of Maryland and even Northern Essex Community College.

The hang gliding club was ultimately grounded in 1996 due to liability concerns. Blood, who lives in Londonderry, N.H., recently loaned a treasure trove of club-related photos, videos and documents to the UML Libraries Center for Lowell History so that they could be digitized. View the collection


UML students hike at the Grand Canyon

Students are no longer required to take physical education, and there isn’t a hang gliding club on campus for them to test their nerve. But thanks to the university’s Campus Recreation program, today’s students have more opportunities than ever to work out, play a club or intramural sport, or just get out of their comfort zone.

The popular Outdoor Adventure Program offers local skydiving, surfing and mountain biking excursions, as well as annual hiking trips to the Grand Canyon (as seen here) and sea kayaking trips to Florida.

“It’s a great way for students to recharge and enjoy the outdoors,” says Kevin Soleil ’05, assistant director of the outdoor and bicycle programs, whose mission is to “support the development of healthy, balanced lifestyles for the UML community through outdoor recreation activities.”

Soleil can’t imagine the university ever offering a hang gliding club again, but he and his staff are constantly finding new ways to help students get their blood—and adrenaline—pumping.