President Meehan: “A cause worth fighting for” (Video)
- The UMass System
BOSTON – Marty Meehan, the first undergraduate alumnus to become president of the UMass system, today vowed to fight for a university that he called the state’s most powerful higher-education force for social and economic growth.
“Let’s carry this torch and fight this fight together. It’s a cause worth fighting for,” the former congressman and UMass Lowell chancellor said in an inaugural address delivered to dignitaries, alumni, family and friends from his interconnecting worlds of higher education, politics and policy.
Just prior to participating in the formal investiture ceremony, Governor Charlie Baker paid tribute to President Meehan’s focus and tenacity.
“This guy doesn’t see this as a step to something else or as another feather in his cap. He isn’t doing this for the prestige and the glory, he wants to do the job. He, really, wants to do the job. There’s nothing more powerful anywhere, ever, than someone who wants to do the job,” Governor Baker said.
Victor Woolridge, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, said: “President Meehan shows us what's possible for a UMass graduate who dares to dream.”
In stressing his unflinching commitment to the quest for excellence, progress and affordability at UMass, President Meehan was tapping into the well-established reputation that Governor Baker cited.
In Congress, Meehan fought for Lowell and the Merrimack Valley, pressed the tobacco industry to be more forthcoming about health risks, and pushed for campaign finance reform. During his tenure as chancellor of UMass Lowell, he led his alma mater on its meteoric rise to top-tier national university status, improving its performance in every sphere of activity.
A crowd of more than 450 gathered at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate at UMass Boston as President Meehan, who took office on July 1, was officially inaugurated as the 27th president of the University of Massachusetts. The inauguration generated a record $1.6 million for student scholarships.
President Meehan called the state’s public research university “the most important institution in Massachusetts in the critical areas of social mobility and economic growth,” citing the five-campus system’s role as “the academic institution that shapes our workforce” and “conducts the research that fuels the state’s innovation economy.”
The venue was of special significance to President Meehan, who said he was inspired by the late senator’s dedication to the public good, and to education in particular. He said he was present when Senator Kennedy “electrified the nation and fired our hearts and minds” at the 1980 Democratic National Convention with the words: “’The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream will never die.’”
The new UMass president also spoke about public education’s role in creating “an America where everyone has a seat at the table and a chance to soar.”
Speakers at the event included Governor Baker, U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, EMKI President Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, Chairman Woolridge, Lt. Governor Karyn E. Polito, and student Trustees Nolan M. O’Brien and Amanda Robinson. The UMass Amherst marching band, UMass Lowell Gospel Choir and UMass Dartmouth student Caiana Luse provided musical interludes.
Chairman Woolridge was joined by Governor Baker and President Meehan’s family in the presentation of the UMass presidential medal and chain.
In accepting the mantle of the UMass presidency, President Meehan said that he is mindful not only of the dreams of John, Robert and Edward Kennedy, but also “the dreams of school kids living not far from here in Dorchester, the dreams of immigrants newly arrived in Lowell and Lawrence, and the single mother in Springfield who wants a better life for her children.”
President Meehan used the privately funded inauguration to focus on the University’ s role as an engine of transformation and to highlight its impact on students and families across the commonwealth, and Board Chair Woolridge announced early in the program that related fund-raising efforts had been a resounding success.
“I am pleased to announce that because of the generosity of so many and the outpouring of support for Marty’s leadership, we have raised $1.6 million to support student scholarships,” said Board Chair Woolridge.
President Meehan said that his parents emphasized the importance of education. That, combined with the proximity of the public university, enabled him to rise from his working-class Lowell neighborhood and become a U.S. Congressman, UMass Lowell chancellor, and now president of the UMass system. “As I take on the presidency of the University of Massachusetts, I see myself as carrying the torch that my parents lit. It is a torch I hold proudly.”
He also pledged to move more students, particularly from underrepresented communities, into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathametics educational pipeline that is the foundation of the Commonwealth’s knowledge-based economy.
President Meehan became the chancellor of UMass Lowell after serving in Congress for 14 years. As chancellor of UMass Lowell from 2007 to 2015, President Meehan made access, affordability and diversity the foundation of his vision and is credited with propelling that institution into a nationally recognized university. The campus experienced record gains in enrollment, student retention, research and scholarship funding under his leadership and underwent a dramatic physical transformation, opening 10 new buildings in a five-year period.
He served as deputy secretary of state for securities and corporations from 1986 to 1990 and was first assistant district attorney of Middlesex County.
After being awarded undergraduate degrees in education and political science from UMass Lowell in 1978, President Meehan went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration and juris doctor from Suffolk University.
Delivering the ceremony’s academic address, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said: “Growing up in Lowell, Marty realized the transformative power of a university education, working his way through UMass Lowell to earn his degree. Now, as president of the state’s public research university system, he truly understands the critical role the university plays in the Commonwealth, providing the opportunities of a college degree, regardless of socioeconomic background, while igniting our full innovative research potential for the greater good.”
Comments from UMass Chancellors:
UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman: “President Meehan brings a passion, intensity and commitment to excellence that will take the University to even greater accomplishments.”
UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley: “UMass Boston was the first campus Marty Meehan visited after becoming president, and it’s fitting that he chose this campus as the venue for today’s inauguration. This is a great day for the entire University of Massachusetts community, and we’re thrilled to share in it.”
UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney: “It is a proud day for UMass Lowell to see our alumnus and former chancellor Marty Meehan become president of the University of Massachusetts. President Meehan is the embodiment of the transformational education that UMass delivers. I have no doubt that he will work tirelessly to ensure that our five campuses continue to build on the quality that is the hallmark of a UMass education and that he will take the entire system to new heights, just as he did with UMass Lowell in his eight years as chancellor.”
UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael F. Collins: “I offer hearty congratulations to President Meehan on his inauguration and fundraising initiative that successfully raised $1.6 million in support of student scholarships. The Meehan presidency promises to elevate the university system to new heights, and I look forward to partnering with President Meehan to help him achieve the ambitious vision he has set forth for UMass, which is underpinned by a commitment to excellence, affordability, discovery, innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement.”
Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073