Marty Meehan is the first undergraduate alumnus to lead the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. On July 1, 2015, he became the university’s 27th president after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and as chancellor of UMass Lowell.
Born in Lowell, President Meehan was one of seven children and grew up in a family where the importance of education was stressed. After attending the Lowell public schools, President Meehan, a first-generation college student, graduated cum laude from UMass Lowell in 1978 with a degree in education and political science.
President Meehan has an abiding belief in public higher education’s power to transform lives.
He was elected to the presidency after eight successful years as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he led the campus on its rise to top-tier national university status, improving its performance in every sphere of activity.
At his presidential inauguration on November 12, 2015, President Meehan pledged to fight for UMass, which he called “the most important institution in Massachusetts in the critical areas of social mobility and economic growth.”
During the first year of his presidency, the university’s enrollment reached a record 73,744 students and UMass announced that research expenditures had risen to a high of $629 million. Additionally, the UMass Foundation, in part based on President Meehan’s recommendation, voted to divest direct investments in fossil fuels from the university’s endowment.
President Meehan made raising money for scholarships the centerpiece of his inauguration and generated $1.7 million for scholarship funds on all five campuses. He also closed his congressional campaign committee and directed that funds be transferred to an educational foundation and that a $1 million scholarship donation be made to his alma mater, UMass Lowell. UMass increased its own funding on financial aid by nearly $20 million during 2015-2016, with spending rising from $236 million to $255 million, the highest level ever.
Delivering a commencement address at the American College of Greece in Athens in June 2016, President Meehan noted the importance of global involvement as well as the need to foster innovation, saying: “Now more than ever, we need you to embrace innovation, diversity and new thinking. Seek it out -- in the careers you choose and the relationships you forge.”
President Meehan embraced a career in public service early in his life. He served as the deputy secretary of state for securities and corporations from 1986 to 1990. In 1991, he became first assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, managing a staff of more than 150, including 80 prosecutors, and establishing an innovative “priority prosecution” policy that targeted hardened criminals.
Seeing an opportunity to expand his public service commitment and to serve his nation, President Meehan ran for U.S. Congress and was elected to represent the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. He served on the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees. He established a national reputation for his legislative leadership, winning praise for his efforts to protect the public from the health risks of tobacco. President Meehan was a central figure in campaign finance reform and a major sponsor of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold Bill in the Senate and the Shays-Meehan Bill in the House.
After serving 14 years in Congress, President Meehan was elected chancellor of UMass Lowell in 2007. He made quality, diversity and access and affordability keystones of his vision to raise UMass Lowell’s national and international reputation and impact. During his eight-year tenure, UMass Lowell climbed into the top-tier of U.S. News & World Report’s best national universities and was the third-fastest-rising institution on its list.
In addition to his degree from UMass Lowell, President Meehan earned a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University in 1981 and a juris doctor from Suffolk University Law School in 1986.
President Meehan resides in Andover with his wife, Ellen T. Murphy, and their two children, Robert Francis and Daniel Martin.