Meehan has an abiding belief in public higher education’s power to transform lives. At his presidential inauguration on Nov. 12, 2015, 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.”

Under Meehan’s leadership and with his support and advocacy, UMass has reached new heights and achieved historic milestones.

  • Enrollment has risen to a record 75,000 students
  • Research expenditures increased to more than $680 million
  • University-funded financial aid increased by $111 million or 47 percent with 94 percent going to Massachusetts residents.
  • UMass students received nearly $1 billion in federal, state, private, and institutional financial aid in FY20.
  • The university’s statewide annual economic impact has grown to a record $7.5 billion
  • For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked all four UMass undergraduate campuses as top-tier national universities, making UMass one of the few university systems in the nation with that distinction.
  • UMass Law, the only public law school in Massachusetts, achieved full ABA accreditation and its bar pass rates rose to the fifth-highest in New England, with an 82.6 percent pass rate for first-time test-takers in July 2019.

Born in Lowell, Meehan was one of seven children in a family where the importance of education was emphasized. After attending Lowell public schools, Meehan, a first-generation college student, graduated cum laude from UMass Lowell in 1978 with a degree in education and political science. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University in 1981 and a juris doctor from Suffolk University Law School in 1986.

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, 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 and established a national reputation for his legislative leadership, winning praise for his efforts to protect the public from the health risks of tobacco.

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, Meehan was appointed chancellor of UMass Lowell in 2007. He made quality, diversity, access and affordability keystones of his vision to raise his alma mater’s reputation and impact. During his eight-year tenure, UMass Lowell’s enrollment grew by nearly 50 percent and the university climbed into the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s best national universities rankings by improving its performance in every sphere of activity, including student success, fundraising and auxiliary revenue generation. His extraordinary achievements at UMass Lowell led to his appointment as president of the five-campus UMass system in 2015.

Meehan holds honorary degrees from Suffolk University, Green Mountain College, Shenkar College of Engineering & Design, the American College of Greece, Merrimack College, Queens University Belfast and University College Cork.

Meehan serves on the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Board of Directors, supporting APLU’s efforts to bolster research, drive engagement and enhance social and economic impact at public institutions — and to ensure that high-quality public higher education remains affordable and accessible for students of all backgrounds.  He also serves on the board of several prominent organizations, including the New England Council, and the Greater Boston Chamber Board of Directors. He has been named to the Boston Business Journal’s Power 50, a list of the most influential leaders in Greater Boston.

Meehan resides in Boston.