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Oprah Raises Consciousness and $3M at UMass Lowell

November 16, 2018

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and guest of honor Oprah Winfrey burst into laughter during Winfrey's interview as part of the Chancellor's Speaker Series Thursday night at the Tsongas Center. Oprah's comment on how the sparkly shoes were calling out, ÔOh chancellor, in the store!' sparked the outburst. See video and a slide show from this event at lowellsun.com. sUN photos/Julia Malakie Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Oprah Winfrey told a crowd of more than 5,000 people Thursday night that service is her religion.

The talk-show host, producer, author, philanthropist and more was interviewed on stage at the Tsongas Center by UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney for the third installment of the Chancellor’s Speaker Series.

“No matter what you’re doing, if you shift the paradigm to, ‘how can I use this to be of service?’ you literally change your vibration, you change your opportunity, you change your focus,” Winfrey said.

Winfrey said she lives her life by asking how she can use herself for something greater than herself.

So, why come to Lowell?

Winfrey said it was a moving thank-you letter from Andre Dubus III, who is an author and English professor at UMass Lowell, that resonated with her and inspired her to finally come to the city. Dubus was featured on Winfrey’s show after his book “House of Sand and Fog” became an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. She said Dubus was one of the few guests to send her a thank-you letter.

But Winfrey said she does not do anything without first thinking about what the ultimate good will be.

“When I heard that you all were going to use it as a tool of service, me being here as a tool of service, to raise money for scholarships, I thought that’s worth firing up the jet for,” Winfrey said “Let’s fire up the jet and get to Lowell.”

The Chancellor’s Speaker Series brought in author Stephen King and actress Meryl Streep the last two years. King and Streep helped to raise more than $100,000 and more than $230,000 in student scholarship money, respectively.

“In order to create the abundance that you deserve, the abundance that is just waiting for you, you have to live in the space and the flow of that question: How can I use what I’ve been given in service to something that’s bigger than myself?” Winfrey said.

Moloney announced that this year’s event raised more than $1.5 million for student scholarships and just before the event ended, Winfrey said she would be matching that amount. The audience erupted in applause.

During her interview with Moloney, Winfrey said you can change a life by changing the way someone thinks about their life. And the way to do that, she said, is through education.

“I don’t think this city has had a better night,” said UMass President Marty Meehan, a Lowell native.

Moloney thanked Winfrey for her time, generosity and the joy she brought. Moloney said she was speechless after getting the news that Winfrey would match the scholarship money.

Although the crowd cheered when Moloney said people had been pressing her to ask whether Winfrey would run for president, Winfrey said she wouldn’t be.

Six students were honored on stage with the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship after Winfrey received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree from the university. Winfrey said she was moved by the letters she read from each of the scholarship recipients.

“I thought it was amazing. Just to be in the same space with her was surreal,” said Ann Worrell, of Lowell, one of the audience members. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Amee Gbotee, of Dracut, who also took in the event, said amazing is an understatement for what she felt during Thursday night’s talk. What stuck with Gbotee is Winfrey’s repeated question, “What do you want?”

“Most of the time we spend our time listening to other people and what other people think,” she said, “but that inner voice is always there.”

It was that message of service that resonated with Faimatta Menyongai most.

“You have to be there for the world,” said Menyongai, of Lowell, who is black. “It’s bigger than you -- and to see a black woman get in that position in this country.”

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.

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