By John Collins
LOWELL -- TV's best-known "Science Guy" Bill Nye will take on the persona of "Graduation-Speaker guy" in May.
Nye will address graduates at UMass Lowell's commencement ceremonies on the morning of May 17, the university said Thursday.
Hours later, Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will address degree recipients from the College of Health Sciences, along with graduates receiving master's and doctoral degrees.
Both events are at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
For the seventh year in a row, a record number of UMass Lowell graduates, about 3,280 this year, are expected to receive degrees during commencement ceremonies. To accommodate the increase, UMass Lowell has established a new tradition of holding two commencement ceremonies with featured speakers at each.
Nye, a scientist, engineer, author, inventor and comedian, is best known for his Emmy Award-winning TV series, Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired from 1993 to 1998. He will deliver his speech during the university's morning ceremonies, set for 9 a.m., honoring recipients of bachelor's degrees from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Sciences, the Francis College of Engineering and Manning School of Business.
The afternoon commencement, featuring Koh, starts at 2:30 p.m.
"We are honored to have two individuals who have dedicated their lives to educating the public about science and health speak to UMass Lowell's Class of 2014," said Chancellor Marty Meehan, who will preside over commencement. "Bill Nye and Howard Koh both have tremendous experience and enthusiasm for their work and can offer graduates valuable insight not only into their fields of expertise, but also their unique approaches to teaching."
Koh has been described as one of the most influential people in the fight against tobacco in the last 25 years by the New England Division of the American Cancer Society. He has earned numerous honors for accomplishments in medicine and public health, including from the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Intercultural Cancer Council, the Epilepsy Foundation and the Hepatitis B Foundation.
"Naturally, I will do my best to provide tremendous insights into the human condition that will redirect all of the graduates' lives -- in about 17 minutes," said Nye about his scheduled speech, according to the university's press release. "Of course, that may prove to be too ambitious. So instead of remembering what I said, I hope they remember how they felt on graduation day -- optimistic and full of purpose. I want them to change the world."
Nye is developing a new TV project, "Solving for X," to teach viewers algebra while celebrating what he calls "the P.B. and J" -- the passion, beauty and joy -- of math, he said.