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UMass Lowell Names the School of Nursing

University announces first-ever nursing professorship

Robert and Donna Manning at the ceremony Photo by Tory Germann
UMass Lowell alumni Robert and Donna Manning are shown at the event celebrating the new Donna Manning Endowed Chair for Nursing, the first professorship in the history of the university's nearly 50-year-old nursing program.

Eagle Tribune

LOWELL – UMass Lowell recently celebrated the naming of its School of Nursing and the first-ever endowed professorship in the nearly 50-year history of the program.

The university dedicated the Susan and Alan Solomont School of Nursing and announced the Donna Manning Endowed Chair for Nursing at a ceremony Thursday with more than 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends held at UMass Lowell’s Health and Social Sciences Building. One of 13 new buildings opened by UMass Lowell since 2009, its nursing facilities include state-of-the-art simulation laboratories and a demonstration hospital wing.

Thursday's event is the third milestone for UMass Lowell in less than 10 days. Last week, the university celebrated the opening of the 54,000-square-foot Pulichino Tong Business Center and dedicated the Lawrence Lin MakerSpace in honor of one of the university’s outstanding engineering graduates.

“These milestones have been achieved because of alumni and friends like Rob and Donna Manning, Alan and Susan Solomont and UMass President Marty Meehan and all of you gathered here today,” UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney told those at the event. “Today’s ceremony is a reflection of just how deep and heartfelt your commitment is as we recognize two game-changing achievements for the School of Nursing.”

The Susan and Alan Solomont School of Nursing was dedicated in recognition of the Solomonts’ decades of support for the university, including a new fund providing scholarships and academic support to nursing majors. Alan Solomont is a former U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra who earned a degree in nursing at UMass Lowell before embarking on a career in health care and politics that also included serving as chairman of the University of Lowell’s board of trustees during its merger with the UMass system in 1991. Susan Solomont is a philanthropic adviser and civic leader who has served on the boards of nonprofits and educational institutions. While in Spain, she established the Women’s Leadership Network and chaired the U.S. Embassy’s Volunteers in Action program, and has received international honors for her work on behalf of gender equity and women’s leadership.

The Donna Manning Endowed Chair for Nursing will be awarded to an exceptional new faculty member in the school who exhibits excellence and leadership in the field of nursing and health research. The professorship was established by UMass Lowell graduates Robert and Donna Manning, who have also supported scholarships and the new Pulichino Tong Business Building, which is home to the business school named for Robert Manning, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees and chairman and co-CEO of MFS Investment Management. Donna Manning earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and an MBA at UMass Lowell and has had a distinguished career as an oncology nurse at Boston Medical Center for nearly three decades.

Since its founding in 1968, the Solomont School of Nursing has prepared thousands of nursing professionals. Nearly 600 students are currently enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. The school is the first in the U.S. to offer a master's degree in gerontological nursing to prepare nurse practitioners in that specialty.

“Having the nursing school at UMass Lowell named for Susan and me is profoundly meaningful because of the role this school and this city have played in my life and my family’s life, for literally the last century,” said Solomont. “Before I came here, I attended an elite private university, Tufts, which played an equally important part in shaping who I am today and to which I have returned as a dean. People in Massachusetts are rightly proud of our unique constellation of private colleges and universities and of their global influence. But we should never overlook – or overshadow – the enormous importance of our public institutions of higher education to the education, prosperity and well-being of the people of this Commonwealth.”

Donna Manning, her husband told the crowd assembled, worked for years as a nurse in the Solomont Center for Hematology and Oncology, also named for Alan and Susan Solomont. The Solomonts, he said, exemplify the character and integrity that are needed when making the long-term commitment to name a school for someone. “Your name,” he told the Solomonts, “is going to endure forever.”

Robert Manning also shared the memory of driving to campus in his father’s car, coming to pick up Donna and two of her friends, both of whom were at the event, when they were UMass Lowell students. “The campus didn’t look anything like this.”

“You have no idea what this means to me,” he said of being part of the transformation of UMass Lowell, including the future of the Solomont School of Nursing.

Karen Devereaux Melillo, nursing professor and interim dean, summed up what many at the event were thinking. “Today is a most illustrious day for the school.”

Alexandra Wood, a junior from Chelmsford, spoke on behalf of fellow nursing majors and recipients of the Solomont Family Scholarship.

“I think I can speak for all UMass Lowell nursing students when I say how proud we are to be in this program. Throughout my time here at UMass Lowell, I have learned so much and have been inspired by so many people,” said Wood, adding that the Solomonts and Mannings are among those who provide inspiration. “Because of their generosity and the generosity of many others, UMass Lowell nursing has been allowed to grow, become more recognized and instill skills and knowledge in the next generation of nurses. Thank you for allowing us to pursue our dreams and reach out to help those patients who really need us.”