LOWELL– The largest graduating class in UMass Lowell history will receive advice from a newly elected congresswoman and two internationally renowned educators.
Setting a record for the most graduates for the 12th consecutive year, more than 4,000 members of the class of 2019 will be celebrated at three ceremonies on Friday, May 17 at 10 a.m. and Saturday, May 18 at 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Since 2007, UMass Lowell’s enrollment has increased 57 percent and this is the first year that the university has held three ceremonies to accommodate all of the graduates and their friends and families.
At Saturday’s morning ceremony, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, elected in November 2018 to succeed Niki Tsongas in representing Massachusetts’ Third District, will serve as Commencement speaker.
At the afternoon ceremony on Saturday, graduates will be addressed by Jack Wilson, president emeritus of the University of Massachusetts system, founder of UMass Lowell’s Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship and UMass Lowell distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation.
The Commencement address at Friday’s ceremony will be delivered by UMass Lowell Distinguished University Professor Meg Bond, director of the UMass Lowell Center for Women and Work, professor of psychology and an internationally recognized scholar on issues of gender equality in the workplace.
“Graduates at each of UMass Lowell’s Commencement ceremonies will hear from leaders in education, entrepreneurship, gender equity and government. We are honored to have them address our Class of 2019,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, who will preside over the three ceremonies and is a two-time graduate of the university.
At the morning ceremony on Saturday, students will receive bachelor’s degrees from UMass Lowell’s Francis College of Engineering, Kennedy College of Sciences and Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. At the afternoon ceremony, bachelor’s degrees will be presented to graduates of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Manning School of Business.
All 2019 graduates can say that they are graduating in the same class as Oprah Winfrey, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters from UMass Lowell in November at the Chancellor’s Speakers Series event, “A Conversation with Oprah Winfrey.” The event raised $3 million – including a $1.5 million gift from Winfrey – for student scholarships and recognized the first of UMass Lowell’s Oprah Winfrey Scholars.
Commencement will also feature the presentation of honorary degrees to Gerald and Joyce Colella of Seabrook Beach, N.H., and Naples, Fla., who met and earned bachelor’s degrees at UMass Lowell.
Gerald Colella is chief executive officer 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, including of Newport Corp.
Joyce Colella ’77, a Lowell native, has dedicated many years to education, including as an elementary school teacher in Lowell and southern New Hampshire prior to her retirement and as a member of the College of Education advisory board. Together, the couple has generously supported the Manning School of Business and other university initiatives, and recently established a scholarship for students in the College of Education. In 2014, they received the Distinguished Alumni Award at Commencement.
In addition to honorary degrees, UMass Lowell will present the Distinguished Alumni Award, Chancellor’s Medal for Outstanding University Support and Chancellor’s Medal for Public Service and Civic Engagement.
The Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Brian Rist ’77 of Fort Myers, Fla., executive chairman of Florida-based Storm Smart Industries, the largest manufacturer and installer of hurricane-protection products in the U.S., and native of Stoughton. Rist holds a bachelor’s degree in operations management from UMass Lowell and is earning his MBA through the university’s award-winning online program.
Earlier this year, he and his wife, Kim, made a $5 million donation to the “Our Legacy, Our Place” campaign for UMass Lowell, the largest single gift to UMass Lowell in its history. Kim Rist will be presented with the Chancellor’s Medal for Outstanding University Support at Commencement. In addition to their gift to the campaign, the couple established the Rist Families Endowed Scholarship and support other university programs.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Public Service and Civic Engagement will be presented to Jack O’Connor and Therese O’Connor of Lowell.
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 organizations and the UMass Lowell String Project and founding the Women Working Wonders Fund. With her husband, who also serves on numerous boards of local organizations, O’Connor has been a loyal supporter of UMass Lowell and its students through funding scholarships.
UMass Lowell will recognize the honorees and top student award winners at the annual Commencement Eve Celebration on Friday, May 17 at 5:30 p.m. at University Crossing, 220 Pawtucket St., Lowell. Since 2008, the benefit has raised millions of dollars for student scholarships.
For more on Commencement, visit www.uml.edu/commencement.