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UMass Lowell Presents Honorary Degree to Nobel Laureate

Acclaimed Scientist, Inventor is First of Four Recipients for 2018

Nobel laureate Suji Nakamura receives an honorary degree from UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney.
Nobel laureate Shuji Nakamura, left, was presented with UMass Lowell's highest honor, a doctorate of humane letters, on Wednesday, April 11 at a ceremony attended by more than 100 students, faculty and staff. Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, right, and Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation Julie Chen, center, conferred the honorary degree. (Photo credit: Tory Wesnofske for UMass Lowell)


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LOWELL, Mass. – Nobel Prize in Physics winner Shuji Nakamura, the holder of more than 200 patents and pioneer in energy-efficient LED lighting, was today awarded UMass Lowell’s highest honor, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. 

Nakamura is an internationally renowned researcher who is credited with the invention of blue light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which produce light 90 percent more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs and can be used in a wide range of applications. 

For his work, Nakamura, who began his LED research in 1989, has received numerous other awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Global Energy Prize, the Millennium Technology Prize and even an Emmy. A 2015 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015, Nakamura earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Tokushima in Japan and is the Cree Professor in Solid State Lighting and Display at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and Julie Chen, vice chancellor for research and innovation, conferred the honorary doctorate of humane letters upon Nakamura on behalf of the university at a ceremony at University Crossing attended by more than 100 people from the campus and community. 

“Dr. Nakamura’s major breakthrough in lighting technology has had a worldwide impact. We applaud his extraordinary persistence, creative thinking and problem-solving capabilities. His presence on campus today demonstrates to our students that they, too, can create a more sustainable future through innovative ideas and disciplined research,” said Moloney. “At UMass Lowell, innovative research is an institutional priority and a pillar of our 2020 strategic plan. We empower our students, faculty and staff with the skills, resources and opportunities to find solutions for today’s global challenges.” 

Following the presentation, Nakamura delivered the annual Tripathy Endowed Memorial Lecture. Named for the late Sukant Tripathy, who was a renowned researcher, chemistry professor and former provost and vice chancellor of UMass Lowell, the annual event is one of the university’s premier showcases for research.

UMass Lowell will present three other honorary doctorates at its Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 19. 

Jon Meacham, presidential historian and author of bestsellers including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” will be presented with the honorary degree at UMass Lowell’s 9 a.m. ceremony on May 19 at which he will also deliver the Commencement address. Meacham, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributor to Time and The New York Times Book Review whose books include studies of Thomas Jefferson, George H.W. Bush, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and James and Dolley Madison. His latest, “The Soul of America: The Battle of Our Better Angels,” is scheduled for release early next month and looks to history to understand the nation’s current political divide. 

Also receiving an honorary degree at the morning Commencement ceremony will be James Dandeneau ’80 of Dayville Conn., a graduate of UMass Lowell’s renowned plastics engineering program who is the founder, president and CEO of medical-device maker Putnam Plastics and owner of Connecticut National Golf Course. In addition to the honorary degree, Dandeneau, along with his family – which also includes wife Deb, daughter Lauren and son Ryan, a 2010 UMass Lowell graduate – will be recognized on Friday, May 18 for their support for the university and its students with the dedication of Dandeneau Hall, an existing building that has been extensively renovated for student computer labs and use by faculty in engineering and computer science.

Groton School Headmaster Temba Maqubela, recipient of the Desmond Tutu Social Justice Award, will receive an honorary degree on the afternoon of May 19. Born in South Africa, Maqubela came to the U.S. in the 1980s as a political refugee and went on to earn a master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Kentucky. He taught at a public school in New York before spending nearly three decades at Phillips Academy in Andover in roles including dean of faculty and director of a math and science program for students from underrepresented populations. At Groton School, he has spearheaded the GRoton Accessibility and INclusion initiative (GRAIN) to ensure that deserving students are never denied a Groton education for financial reasons. He also developed the GRoton Accelerate Challenge Enrich (GRACE) program to tackle the preparation gap and propel all students forward. 

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, the first woman to represent Massachusetts 3rd District in 25 years and a previous recipient of an honorary degree from UMass Lowell, will be presented with a Chancellor’s Medal when she addresses graduates at the 2:30 p.m. Commencement ceremony on May 19. 

For the 11th consecutive year, a record number of graduates, approximately 4,000, will receive degrees at UMass Lowell’s Commencement ceremonies, a reflection of growth in both student success and enrollment, which is up 57 percent since 2007. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks UMass Lowell as the fifth fastest-growing public doctoral institution in the U.S. and U.S. News & World Report ranks UMass Lowell among its Best National Universities, as well as for excellence in online learning and graduate education. 

In addition to the honorary degrees, UMass Lowell will present the Distinguished Alumni Award at Commencement. This year, the award will go to Mark Russell ’83, Raytheon Co.’s vice president of engineering, technology and mission assurance, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at UMass Lowell. 

UMass Lowell will recognize the honorees, as well as top student award winners in academics and community service, at the annual Commencement Eve Celebration on Friday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at University Crossing, 220 Pawtucket St., Lowell. Since 2008, the benefit has raised millions of dollars for scholarships.

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UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.