By Grant Welker
LOWELL -- Just starting his freshman year at UMass Lowell, Phil Geoffroy was a quiet student Senate member who tended to mostly stay to himself. The same Chelmsford native, having learned quickly, will now serve as the university's student trustee for the UMass system -- said to be the youngest ever from the Lowell campus.
UMass Lowell Student Government Association President Brian Dano said he saw Geoffroy grow from someone who would stay in the back during meetings to someone who found enough initiative to draft a resolution in support of a Lowell restaurant vandalized last winter.
"We had never done something like that before," said Dano, a business major from Merrimack, N.H., who just finished his junior year. "Phil took the initiative."
Geoffroy, 19, drafted a resolution condemning vandalism at Babylon, an Iraqi restaurant on Merrimack Street where in January a man threw a 20-pound rock through a window. UMass Lowell students and others rallied at the restaurant after the incident to show their support.
Leyla Al-Zubaydi, the owner of Babylon, said the show of support from students and the community in general was great. "It was a good support for us," she said. "It means a lot for us."
The incident provided an opportunity to show that diversity is welcome in Lowell, Geoffroy said.
"Lowell's a city that really owes its greatness to its diversity, and I saw that threatened," Geoffroy said in an interview last week at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center.
Geoffroy, born in Lowell, grew up off North Road in Chelmsford and is a 2011 Chelmsford High School graduate. He never served in student government in high school, he said, but has always been a "political nerd," the type who would watch C-SPAN.
His interest in politics grew during the past three years or so, he said. When he got to UMass Lowell, he decided he wanted to be a part of what he called exciting changes happening at the university. Dano, the student government president, said Geoffroy opened up and became more involved as his freshman year went along.
With UMass Lowell student trustee James Tarr graduating, an opportunity presented itself. Geoffroy defeated another student to become trustee, and, being 18 at the time, the youngest ever from UMass Lowell. He'll be sworn in July 2.
"It's good to know I'll be leaving the position in good hands," Tarr said in a statement with an announcement of Geoffroy's election.
Geoffroy will be one of five student trustees. If he had been a trustee this past year, he said, he would have voted against the student fee increase that passed easily this month. Maintaining affordability for students will be Geoffroy's highest priority.
"That's in the mission statement of UMass," he said.
Geoffroy also provides a voice for Greater Lowell, which doesn't have much representation on the board. Board vice chairman Ruben J. King-Shaw Jr. lives in Carlisle, and trustee Zoila M. Gomez lives in Lawrence. Student trustees are elected by students at their respective campuses. The governor appoints the rest of the board.