On Thursday, November 12, the University of Massachusetts welcomed its new president Martin Meehan, who is also the first alumnus of a UMass system to become a president.
Martin Meehan was born into a big family of seven children in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is a first generation college student with three degrees, the highest being a doctorate from Suffolk Law School.
Meehan’s past positions include being a chancellor at UMass Lowell for eight years since 2007, and a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. During his years as chancellor, Meehan helped UMass Lowell become the third-fastest-rising university with a good reputation nationally, as well as internationally.
The inauguration was hosted at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, where Victoria Reggie Kennedy welcomed attendees among whom were Governor Charlie Baker, President Stanley Rosenberg, Mayor Martin Walsh, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and UMass deans and chancellors. In her welcoming speech, Kennedy explained why her husband, late Edward (Ted) Kennedy chose to have the institute on the UMass Boston campus: “When my husband decided to establish this institute, he wanted to be located right here on the campus of UMass Boston, with its diverse and dynamic student body and commitment to excellence in public education.” In addition, Victoria Kennedy explained that the mission of the institute is to encourage young people’s participation in American democracy, as well as to “inspire engagement in the civic life in the community.” Therefore, the institute is a perfect place for Meehan, a living embodiment of the mission to be inaugurated there. “Martin has lived the mission of the this institute and he earned the friendship and admiration of senator Edward F. Kennedy, the man for whom this place was built. So fitting it is that Martin will be inaugurated as the 27th president of UMass, here, at the Kennedy Institute."
Nolan O’Brien, the Student Trustee of UMass Boston, expressed admiration and fascination for Martin Meehan's ability to stay focused on students by meeting with UMass Boston students on the first day of his presidency. “Martin Meehan brought that same student-centered approach to his first day of presidency and he brings it to this inauguration today.”
Martin Meehan was inaugurated by Governor Charlie Baker, who assured people of Meehan’s remarkable leadership skills and ability to achieve any set goal: "In everything he's ever taken on, there's always been a band around him and behind him buying into what he was selling and charging full speed ahead.”
The 27th President of the University of Massachusetts system accepted the presidency and emphasized the importance of his inauguration happening on the UMass Boston campus: “I’m pleased to be formally accepting the presidency of the University of Massachusetts, here at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, on the campus of UMass Boston,” said Meehan. “This location is particularly special to me because of Senator Kennedy’s work in many areas, including education, because of what he meant to me personally and because what this peninsula represents in symbolic and very tangible terms.”
He continued by expressing hope for not only UMass students, but for the communities surrounding them around Massachusetts. “I think of the dreams of school kids, living not far from here in Dorchester, the dreams of immigrants newly arrived in Lowell and Lawrence, and of a single mother in Springfield, who just wants a better life for her children.”
Making references to his background as a first generation college student, Meehan acknowledged his parents efforts in providing him and his siblings with opportunities for higher education and explained that he intends to continue this trend. “I see myself as carrying the torch that my parents lit.” The president also vowed to stand for student and faculty interests with the first step being joint efforts with the governor and legislature towards a possibility for students to acquire a $30,000-$35,000 UMass degree.
The first contribution by Meehan and his supporters to the UMass system is a raised 1.6 million dollars to support student scholarships.
President Martin Meehan concluded his speech by implicitly calling on everyone to come together and help to provide opportunities and education for the citizens of the Commonwealth: “Let's carry this torch and fight this fight together; it's a cause worth fighting for.”