UMass President Marty Meehan to receive RFK Embracing the Legacy Award

BOSTON -- Receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps’ Embracing the Legacy award has particular meaning and poignance for UMass President Marty Meehan, who counts the late senator and presidential candidate as an inspiration and personal hero.   

“The Kennedy family’s passion for change and for public service inspired me, but I will always have a special feeling about Bobby Kennedy and his presidential campaign in 1968. I just became very engaged with his great message of hope,” Meehan noted. 

Meehan will be one of four honorees when the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps presents its Embracing the Legacy awards at virtual celebration on May 11, 2021. The others are Jim Geraghty, Managing Director, Private Wealth Advisor at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth and Board Chair for Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, Justin Pasquariello, Executive Director of East Boston Social Centers, and the Reverend Liz Walker, Pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church and the former award-winning news anchor on WBZ-TV. 

Meehan is being honored for his commitment to young people and education and for the contributions he has made throughout his public career, which includes service at UMass, his tenure in Congress and serving as First Assistant District Attorney of Middlesex County.  

Concern for children and creating better futures for young people are themes that flow through Meehan’s career. 

  • As Middlesex County First Assistant District Attorney, Meehan helped to establish youth basketball and soccer leagues that had a particular focus on involving kids from newly arrived immigrant families. 
  • In Congress, Meehan protected children from the deadly effects of tobacco use and was a driving force behind the tobacco industry being required to acknowledge the risks and dangers of cigarette smoking. Meehan also was a key player in ending LGBTQ discrimination in the military and in passing major campaign finance reform legislation.  
  • Serving as Chancellor of UMass Lowell, his alma mater, and now as President of the five-campus UMass system, Meehan’s accomplishments have been numerous and have included increasing student financial aid by nearly 50 percent, raising funds to increase scholarship aid and emphasizing the importance of diversity.  

Meehan’s official biography is available on the university’s website: 

“Like Bobby Kennedy, I believe individuals should be able to rise as high as their ambitions will take them,” says Meehan. “Where you come from should not dictate where you will go and we have a responsibility to create pathways of opportunities for students of all backgrounds. That is why higher education is so important. Education is the best way to achieve one’s potential in life. It stimulates growth and social mobility.” 

Meehan has sought to bring diversity to the student body and the highest levels of university leadership, appointing the first woman to lead UMass Lowell in its history, the first African- American to ever lead UMass Dartmouth and in appointing Marcelo Suárez-Orozco chancellor of UMass Boston, the first Latino to lead a UMass campus. 

In addition to his official duties, Meehan established the Marty Meehan Educational Fund, which initially provided scholarships to students who lost a parent or loved one during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In recent years, the Meehan Foundation has provided more than $1 million in funding for need-based scholarships for students on all five UMass campuses. The Meehan Foundation recently donated $10,000 in support of the George Floyd Honorary Scholarship Fund established at UMass Boston by Chancellor Suárez-Orozco and his wife, Carola. 

The Meehan Foundation has also supported the work of organizations that focus on the success and well-being of young people, including the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell and The BASE, a nonprofit group that utilizes baseball and sports to help kids achieve success in life. The BASE founder, Robert Lewis, Jr., who serves as a UMass trustee, is a 2019 Embracing the Legacy Award recipient. 

Founded in June 1969, the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps continues to serve and honor the late Senator’s belief that society has a responsibility to all of its members, and that lasting contributions are first made by improving the lives of children and their families. To date, the Massachusetts-based agency, a national leader in developing and implementing successful child welfare, social service and juvenile justice programs, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families. 

The Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps was founded by Philip W. Johnston, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts who has served on the UMass Board of Trustees, the UMass Building Authority and the UMass Foundation Board of Directors.  

Said Meehan: “Phil Johnston epitomizes Robert Kennedy’s belief that, ‘The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.’”