‘We Believe in Serving Others’
LOWELL — Students in the largest and most diverse graduating class in UMass Lowell history completed their undergraduate journey this weekend during commencement exercises at the Tsongas Arena.
Degrees were awarded at two ceremonies on Saturday for the 3,133 candidates for bachelors’ degrees. A ceremony was held Friday night for the 1,415 scholars receiving masters’ and doctoral degrees. UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney said the students came from 43 states and 113 countries
Among those on stage Saturday morning were some who were the first of their family to graduate from college:
- Richard Macdonald of Billerica, who is headed to the UMass Medical School in August, gave the student address.
- Stephanie Zuber of Haverhill, who is class president, presented the graduating class.
- U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, a Georgetown University graduate, gave the commencement address.
Macdonald, in his address to his class, proudly claimed his status as a first generation college graduate and congratulated the many others in the class of 2019 who shared that trait. Macdonald was named an outstanding scholar by the Department of Biological Sciences and won the Dr. Salem Zach Elias Memorial Scholarship. He also won a Trustees Key Award for maintaing a 4.0 GPA for all four years of his time at the school.
“We woke up early and we stayed up late,” MacDonald said. They helped and served each other and the community. “We believe in serving others, not just ourselves,” he added.
After the ceremony, he said that his graduation “means the world to my family.”
As for advice to incoming students, he said, “It doesn’t matter who you are. You might be a member of an under-represented minority, or a first-generation student, or in a major where no one looks like you. Just believe in yourself the entire way. Believe in achieving your goals and shoot high.”
Zuber, whose degree is in public health and biology, is sorry the four years are over, but excited at the same time. But she is staying at the university to work on her master’s degree. But first she is headed to Iceland and then Nashville.
As commencement speaker — giving her first commencement speech— Trahan opened with a rallying cry from the women’s suffrage movement of a century ago. “The young are at the gates,” said suffragist Lavinia Dock. In the same piece Dock writes of ”...looking over the field of the suffrage campaign and watching the pickets at the White House and at the Capitol, where sit the men who complacently enjoy the rights they deny to the women at their gates.”
Trahan reminded the graduating class of revolutionary work that young adults have accomplished. She sited for example, Katie Bouman an MIT graduate student, who at 29, developed the algorithm that made an image of a black hole possible. Also mentioned were Malala Yousafza who was gravely injured for promoting education for girls and then, at 17, became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her ongoing activism and Congressman John Lewis who gave the keynote address at the 1963 March on Washington at age 33.
“Don’t wait your proverbial turn,” Trahan urged.“We’re at a time when it is never more important to take control of our fate. We need you at the gate.”
Other first generation graduates include Simthyrearch Dy who may already be pounding on the gate. Also a first generation student, Dy graduated with three majors. He needed approval to do so. His co-equal degrees are in computer science, physics and math. He’s gained an impressive credential while at UMass Lowell. With other students, he developed a miniature satellite for NASA.
Dy is going to work for MITRE in Bedford in the company’s emerging technologies program and will pursue graduate studies as an employee of one of the premier defense contractors.
In the afternoon program first generation graduates included a mother-daughter team from Chelmsford. Both Kari Rosado and her daughter Sienna graduated with degrees in psychology. Kari Rosado plans to go on to graduate school at Widener University near Philadelphia.
A weekend program will allow her to commute. She was once a U.S. Marine, but her daughter has other plans. She was an Air Force reservist while going to college and she is emphatic that she plans to join that branch of the military and is looking at its chaplaincy corps.