News: Featured Stories

Former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank speaks at UMass Boston's graduate commencement. (Harry Brett/Boston)
May 28, 2018

Former Rep. Barney Frank speaks at UMass Boston graduate commencement


  • Boston
University awards degrees to 1,315 graduate students, including 88 doctoral candidates

Former Congressman Barney Frank called on an increasingly globalized and technologically advanced society to do better in caring for all its citizens at UMass Boston’s graduate commencement earlier today.

"People who are very skillful should be rewarded, but the penalty for not being very skillful in certain ways shouldn't be that your family goes hungry or that you lack the basics," Frank said to applause.

He called on the UMass Boston Class of 2018 to share the wealth.

"Those who like yourselves have the skill to improve your capacity, have the skill to get the education …you should not begrudge sharing some of your increased wealth with your less fortunate, less well-endowed colleagues and fellow citizens," he said.

Frank delivered his commencement address as UMass Boston awarded 1,315 graduate degrees – including 88 doctoral degrees – to graduates at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. Frank, who famously coauthored the landmark legislation designed to regulate the financial services industry, was also awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters during the ceremony for his pursuit of social justice. 

This is the first of two days of commencement ceremonies, marking UMass Boston’s 50th commencement, with an undergraduate ceremony taking place tomorrow at the TD Garden. UMass Boston will graduate a total of 3,986 students. The Class of 2018 hails from 106 countries. There are also 147 veterans graduating this year. Earlier in the day, the university celebrated its doctoral candidates with a hooding ceremony. 

Yale professor and UMass Boston alum Paul Anastas '84 was also recognized with an honorary degree for his accomplishments in the field of green chemistry, which he co-founded. UMass President Marty Meehan called Anastas a "shining example of the heights that a UMass Boston education can take you."

Interim Chancellor Barry Mills told graduates to create positive change as they apply the knowledge gained from their UMass Boston experience to the issues they encounter as they make their way along the paths they’ve chosen.

 "It is through you that we will lead and engage in the great battles of our times – in healthcare, in education, in creating economic opportunity and fairness … or with respect to social and environmental issues, as today’s honorees have done in their careers," he said. 

"Which is why I have been telling anyone who will listen … that UMass Boston truly is one of this state's greatest assets. As it transforms lives at scale … and produces the leaders and visionaries who will then go on to transform at even greater scale."

Mills explained that when UMass Boston held its first commencement in 1969, there was no need for a special Graduate commencement, since there were no graduate degrees to award. It wasn't until 1972 that UMass Boston awarded three master's degrees, and two doctorates in 1973. 

"Fast forward to what to some of us seems like a relatively short period of time, and the university that awarded 500 bachelor's degrees at its first commencement is awarding more than 1,200 graduate degrees," he said. "And it is research and graduate education that gives this university a particular heft and allows it to have such an impact on our city, on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts … and on the world."

Online student Bobby Ricketts, 59, an international jazz musician based in Copenhagen, Denmark, traveled to Boston to deliver the graduate student address. An arts envoy of the U.S. Department of State and an eight-time recipient of the Fulbright-Hays grant, he has made more than 30 visits to Africa to help launch activities in outreach programs that cater to young, aspiring musicians. Ricketts is graduating from the Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) master’s program. 

"While at UMass Boston, the hybrid course offerings, which combine students on-campus with those of us from a distance, have allowed me to continue my education as I traveled the world," he said. "I’ve been able to complete the requirements for a Master of Arts degree while attending class sessions, from locations in Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Madagascar—along with classmates located across the USA, in Europe, Asia, and Australia."

Mills said Ricketts' UMass Boston experience "speaks volumes to what lies ahead" for the university.

"There is much to do out there, and I am confident that we who are gathered in this room today, will be counted amongst those who bring about much needed beneficial outcomes in the communities and societies of the future," Ricketts said.