Meehan Inaugurated

04/05/2008
By From the Boston Globe

By David Abel, Globe Staff

Nine months after taking over, Martin T. Meehan was inaugurated yesterday as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, pledging to boost student enrollment, diversity, and the number of students living on campus.

    The weeklong inauguration festivities, which included encomiums yesterday by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Governor Deval Patrick, raised more than $1 million for student scholarships, university officials said.

    "Our new vision involves taking a strong research university to the next level toward wider opportunities for our students, increased engagement with our community, and heightened excellence in teaching, research, and scholarship," Meehan said.

    Meehan, who became chancellor on July 1, said he plans to increase student enrollment by 2.5 percent per year, increase to half the number of students living on campus, improve the diversity of the student body and the number of female students studying math and science, and ensure that new and renovated buildings meet the highest environmental standards.

    The 51-year-old former congressman, who represented the state's Fifth Congressional District between 1993 and 2007, became the second chancellor and 14th leader of UMass-Lowell and its predecessor schools, which were founded in the 1890s. The University of Lowell was created in 1975 through the merger of Lowell State College and Lowell Technological Institute. The campus became part of the University of Massachusetts system in 1991.

    The school, which now enrolls more than 11,600 students, has a $220 million operating budget that supports 88 undergraduate and graduate degree programs at its five colleges. Many of the students commute to campus.

    A native of Lowell, Meehan graduated from the campus in 1978, where he studied education and political science. He was the first in his family to attend college.

    Since taking over, he has vowed to build new academic buildings, increase student aid, and recruit students from beyond the Merrimack Valley. About 19 percent of undergraduates and 12 percent of graduate students are members of minority groups. He also plans to seek international students; about 1 percent of the campus population is from abroad.

    "The majority of our graduates stay here to work and raise families, to create businesses and jobs, to contribute to civic and cultural life," he said. "The role that this university plays in the development of the intellect and character of our students cannot be overstated."

    At the initiation ceremony yesterday, Meehan received praise from students, faculty, and a host of politicians.

    "Chancellor Meehan knows the value of public higher education and the value of the institution to the city and the Commonwealth," Governor Deval Patrick said. "We share the vision of making public higher education in Massachusetts second to none in the nation."

    Pelosi said she expected Meehan - who left Congress with a $5 million campaign fund, the biggest in the House - to hit her and her colleagues up for money.

    "He will bring to UMass-Lowell the same hard work and determination he brought to his outstanding service in Washington," she said.