More than 4,500 honored at three commencement ceremonies
LOWELL, Mass. - The largest and most diverse class - 4,534 strong - graduated from UMass Lowell at Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 17 and May 18.
While it is the 12th year in a row that the university has seen a record number of graduates, it is the first time three Commencement ceremonies have been held to accommodate them. UMass Lowell's Class of 2019 represents 43 states and 113 countries and more than 1,600 members graduated with honors and more than 100 with a perfect 4.0 GPA. [Editor’s note: A selection of videos of speeches and other moments during Commencement is available.]
UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney presided over the three ceremonies, recalling for the Class of 2019 how their ranks include Oprah Winfrey, who was presented with an honorary degree in November when she took part in the Chancellor’s Speaker Series, which raised $3 million for scholarships, including $1.5 million from Winfrey herself.
Echoing Winfrey, Moloney encouraged graduates to “live life with gratitude. When you get up each morning, take time to say thank you.” She also praised graduates’ faculty, family and friends for their support and encouragement throughout the college journey.
Commencement speakers including U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan urged the Class of 2019 to “be ready” because “your calling will come” to address critical issues facing the nation and the world, and graduates should not “make the mistake of waiting your proverbial turn or thinking that life has some grand sequence. Your reaction and your perspective is so powerful…you must play a leading role.”
“This chapter of your life – college – may be ending, but a new one starts today. UMass Lowell has prepared you. UMass Lowell graduates are in demand all around the country. The university is continually climbing in national rankings and gaining national recognition for its accomplishments. UMass Lowell graduates shape every corner of our Commonwealth and of our country,” said Trahan, who represents Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District, in her address to those receiving undergraduate degrees at the first of two ceremonies on Saturday.
“Wherever you go next, what’s important to remember is that we need you…to lead in business, science, technology, health care, our government and in your community. The stakes right now are high and it is imperative that you, the graduating class of 2019, recognize your ability to re-shape our country,” she said.
UMass Lowell Distinguished University Professor Meg Bond, director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Women and Work and a faculty member in psychology, addressed graduates at Friday’s ceremony for those receiving master’s and doctoral degrees.
“Your creativity and newly minted expertise will enable you to find new, unexplored angles to address the protracted challenges of our communities and our country. That’s exciting. You will be even more impactful if you take care to anchor those new ideas in an understanding of the past,” said Bond.
“Hold onto your enthusiasm, but anchor your work in understanding where your efforts fit into a broader arc; be that the history of the scientific or scholarly endeavors to which you strive to contribute, of the school you enter as a new teacher or administrator, of the new organization you join or hope to lead and of the communities in which you live and work,” she said.
Jack Wilson, former UMass system president and current UMass Lowell distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation, was presented with an honorary degree for his achievements in education, industry and public service. He delivered the address to undergraduates receiving degrees at the second ceremony on Saturday.
“It took a lot of work to get to this point. It took work in high school to qualify for UMass Lowell, and it took more work to get to the point that you can sit here today and look back with satisfaction at what you have accomplished. We are also looking forward to all that you will accomplish in the future. All of us are counting on it,” said Wilson, founder of the Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Lowell.
UMass President Marty Meehan, a UMass Lowell alumnus, also addressed the graduates. “You are graduating from a world-class university that has given you the education and tools to achieve whatever you set out to do,” he said, urging the Class of 2019 to remain committed to learning throughout their lives.
In addition to Winfrey and Wilson, UMass Lowell recognized the following with 2019 honorary doctorates of humane letters:
- Gerald Colella ’78 and Joyce Colella ’77 of Seabrook Beach, N.H., and Naples, Fla. Gerald Colella is CEO of MKS Instruments Inc., of Andover, a $2 billion technology and solutions provider to the semiconductor and industrial technology markets that he has guided to a 300 percent increase in revenue and successful billion-dollar acquisitions. Joyce Colella, a retired elementary school teacher in Lowell and southern New Hampshire, serves on the UMass Lowell College of Education advisory board. Together, the Colellas have generously supported the Manning School of Business and other university initiatives, and recently established a scholarship for students in the College of Education.
The Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Brian Rist ’77 of Fort Myers, Fla., a Stoughton native and executive chairman of Florida-based Storm Smart Industries, the nation’s largest manufacturer and installer of hurricane-protection products, who is earning his second UMass Lowell degree, an MBA, through the university’s award-winning online program. The Chancellor’s Medal for Outstanding University Support was presented to Kim Rist. Earlier this year, the Rists made a $5 million commitment to the “Our Legacy, Our Place” campaign, the largest single gift ever to UMass Lowell, for scholarships and a range of initiatives, including the new Rist DifferenceMaker Institute for entrepreneurship education.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Public Service and Civic Engagement was presented to Jack O’Connor and Therese O’Connor of Lowell for their commitment to the community and the university, including scholarships. Jack O’Connor is founder of O’Connor School Portraits, one of the largest individually owned businesses of its kind in the U.S., and co-founder of Commencement Photos Inc., which annually photographs graduates at more than 400 colleges and universities around the nation. Therese O’Connor has devoted more than 35 years to community work around the Merrimack Valley, including serving on the boards of numerous organizations and the UMass Lowell String Project.
The honorees were recognized along with top student award winners at the annual Commencement Eve Celebration on Friday, May 17, which has raised millions of dollars for scholarships since 2008.
Students also addressed their fellow graduates during the three ceremonies.
“We’ve passed through UMass Lowell, but now we must let UMass Lowell pass through us. We’ve experienced a great sense of community and support here, so it is only fair that as we go into the world, we provide the same for others,” said Somto Nnyamah of Lowell, who received her second UMass Lowell degree, a master’s in business analytics, at the Friday ceremony. “Graduating from UMass Lowell today will open new doors of opportunity and the time we spent here has more than prepared us to make the best of these opportunities. Look around you, remember these faces. You’ll be seeing them again in research journals, on billboards, on TV and in the news. Class of 2019, congratulations! It’s time to go out there and show the world that River Hawks flourish wherever they go!”
“Because of UMass Lowell, we leave armed with more than just the degrees we’re receiving here today. We leave prepared to make the world a better place. And that is more important than a 401k, a promotion, or a house in your favorite neighborhood,” said Denia Taylor of Andover, a mother of two who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the Saturday afternoon ceremony. “We will go forward and use the skills we’ve gained again and again, whether as a lawyer, a teacher, a farmer, or whatever our next role is. This strange political moment we find ourselves in places a greater demand on us to work toward a better world in public. This could be the legacy of the UMass Lowell Class of 2019.”
Biology major Richard Macdonald of Billerica, a first-generation college student who is headed to UMass Medical School in the fall, talked to graduates at the Saturday morning ceremony about how their ability to juggle family responsibilities, jobs, community service and campus life while still achieving academically makes them special.
“Maybe you participated in research, co-ops and networking with experts in your field to gain real-world experience and connections that will now come in handy. Because we found time to take advantage of these opportunities, we now leave with so much more than a degree,” Macdonald said. “I hope that you take the dedicated, persistent, and selfless spirit you have practiced here – the River Hawk spirit – with you wherever you go, because that is what makes every single one of us extraordinary.”
Macdonald was also one of four graduates to receive the university’s highest honor for academic achievement: the Trustees Key, which recognizes those who maintain a perfect 4.0 grade-point average over all eight semesters at UMass Lowell. The other 2019 Trustees Key recipients are chemical engineering major FitzAnthony Forsyth of Acton and computer engineering major Nicholas Sacco of Tewksbury, and chemical engineering and math major Joseph Wakim of Methuen. Each was also awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement for their respective college, Macdonald for the Kennedy College of Sciences, Forsyth and Sacco for the Francis College of Engineering and Wakim, a double-major, received a medal from both.
The academic medals – which go to the top undergraduates in each of UMass Lowell’s schools and colleges, as well as its Division of Online and Continuing Education – were also awarded to:
- Political science major Tyler Davis of Lowell, liberal arts major Olivia Desrochers of Boxborough and psychology major Patricia Ferreira of Nashua, N.H., for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences;
- Clinical lab sciences major Katherine McGourty of Westford for the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences;
- Nursing major Chiew Fong Chew of Lincoln, English major Alyson Desmarais of Swansea and information technology major Jeffrey Wheelhouse of Waltham for the Division of Online and Continuing Education;
- Business administration majors Sean Flaherty of Lowell and Jack Carroll of North Andover for the Manning School of Business.
Grant Lardieri of Grand Rapids, Mich., a chemistry major, received both the Kennedy College of Sciences academic medal and the University Scholar-Athlete Award for his accomplishments on the men’s lacrosse team, his 3.99 GPA and service to the campus and community.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Community Service was presented to:
- Julie Ballo of Lexington, exercise physiology major;
- Emily Bellino of Lake Grove, N.Y., business administration;
- Matthew Lovely of Foxborough, business administration;
- Catherine Han of Lexington, sociology;
- Akhil Meka of Chelmsford, biology;
- Edina Hirt of Lowell, a psychology major who was also UMass Lowell’s honoree at the Massachusetts Department of Education’s “29 Who Shine” awards for the top public college and university graduates in the Commonwealth.
UMass Lowell awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Diversity and Inclusion to:
- Kaitlynn Bartley of Billerica, master’s degree in education administration;
- Jenna Kapp of Lowell, master’s degree in peace and conflict studies;
- Linda Riley of Woburn, who received her doctoral degree in leadership in schooling.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service was presented to:
- Stephanie Carnazzo of Lowell, psychology;
- Andre DiFilippo of Saugus, business administration;
- Michael Doane of Hayward, Calif., chemical engineering;
- Brian Madigan of Braintree, chemical engineering;
- Marina Novaes of Dracut, public health;
- Vilma Okey-Ewurum of Chelmsford, public health.
For the first time, the university awarded the River Hawk Experience Distinction to students who have completed coursework and experiential learning in community and global engagement, entrepreneurship or leadership. The first recipients of the honor are DiFilippo, along with Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences graduates Megan Aukstikalnis of Maynard, Michelle Chernaik of Chelmsford, Alexandra Loblundo of Littleton, Noveen Mansouri of Sudbury, Sarah Nasuti of Mashpee, Maeve Norton of Holliston and Stephanie Perry of Lowell.
The class gift was presented by Senior Class President Stephanie Zuber of Haverhill, a biology and public health major who is one of nine family members to attend UMass Lowell, and Senior Class Vice President Sunita Singh Poma of Acton, an economics major.
Participants in the ceremonies also included UMass Trustee Mary Burns, who was marking the 35th anniversary of her graduation from UMass Lowell; state Sen. Diana DiZoglio; state Rep. Rady Mom; Lowell Mayor William Samaras; Lowell City Councilors Vesna Nuon and Karen Cirillo; the UMass Lowell Brass Choir; UMass Lowell Chamber Singers; the UMass Lowell Army and Air Force ROTC Color Guard; and Kevin Barry Irish American Pipes and Drums.
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 leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu