Commencement Eve Gala Recognizes Outstanding Achievements
UMass Lowell raised over $725,000 for student scholarships through its annual Commencement Eve Celebration held Friday, May 17. Since its inception in 2008, the event has raised nearly $3 million.
The sixth annual “Honoring Excellence” gala provided an opportunity for the public and University community to hear from Commencement speaker Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis III and 2013 honorary degree recipients, as well as to recognize distinguished alumni and UMass Lowell students for their outstanding academic achievement and service. The event was held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.
“Our annual Commencement Eve Celebration recognizes and honors the accomplishments of our outstanding graduates, alumni and community leaders,” says UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “Each year, the celebration raises crucial scholarship funds for our students. With the generous support of alumni and friends of the University, again we have achieved a record-breaking year in fundraising through this signature event.”
The event included a conversation with honorary degree recipients, moderated by Andre Dubus III, best-selling author and professor in UMass Lowell’s English Department. Honorary degree recipients include Nancy L. Donahue, an active philanthropist and volunteer in the Merrimack Valley; Harish Hande ’98, ’00, social entrepreneur; and Mark ’81 and Elisia Saab, co-founders of Advanced Polymers Inc. This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients were the late Gary M. Mucica ’71, Manning School of Business Graduate Program director and golf coach, and Bernie Shapiro ’56, retired math professor emeritus. UMass President Robert Caret also addressed the audience.
Donahue is an active philanthropist and volunteer in the Merrimack Valley. A supporter of the arts, she established the Nancy L. Donahue Endowed Professorship in the Arts to strengthen music, arts and theater programs at UMass Lowell and within the City of Lowell. Donahue has supported several other programs and scholarships at the University and routinely provides leadership within area organizations and for key community initiatives.
Hande is a social entrepreneur specializing in providing India’s poor with solar energy for lighting. As managing director of Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) India which he co-founded in 1995, Hande has pioneered access to solar electricity through a combination of customized home-lighting systems and innovative financing options. To date, SELCO has reached more than half a million people. Hande is the recipient of the 2011 Magsaysay Award from the Philippine government.
Mark Saab is president of Advanced Polymers Inc. of Salem, N.H., a manufacturing company he co-founded with his wife Elisia Saab that produces innovative medical device components. With over 30 years in the plastics field, he has secured more than 30 patents. Longtime supporters of scholarships and University programs, Mark and Elisia Saab recently provided a multimillion-dollar gift allowing it to formally name the Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center in their honor. Saab is the 2007 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. His committee and board service at UMass Lowell includes the College of Engineering and the Plastics Engineering Advisory Boards, the Chancellor’s External Advisory Board and the Chancellor’s Honorary Inaugural Committee. Furthermore, the couple co-chaired the 2011 Commencement Eve Committee. Saab graduated from the University of Lowell with a degree in plastics engineering.
Elisia Saab is the co-founder of Advanced Polymers Inc. She has played an instrumental role in the company’s success for over 24 years. Other than family, most important to Saab is giving back to her community and honoring her Portuguese heritage. In 2010, she and her husband Mark formed a non-profit organization, the Saab Family Foundation to assist students through scholarships and to support organizations that provide services to those in need. Ten years ago, she co-founded the Portuguese-American Senior Center in Lowell, and Mark and Elisia Saab recently helped establish the Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at the University. In addition, the couple has generously supported many other organizations.
Gary, who passed away on July 3, 2012, was a visiting assistant professor for the Manning School of Business, director of its Graduate Program and the head coach for the UMass Lowell golf team. He was a generous supporter of the University and served on numerous committees. Gary received his degree in business administration from Lowell Technological Institute and then earned an MBA from the Sawyer School of Management at Suffolk University. He also enjoyed a successful business career with Johnson & Johnson and The Clorox Company.
Shapiro who retired as professor emeritus in 1996, also worked as an evening supervisor in the continuing education department. As leadership donors with more than 25 years of giving history, he and his wife, Yana, have generously supported the Bernard and Yana Shapiro Endowed Scholarship Fund for math, management and continuing studies students, the basketball program and many other initiatives. Shapiro received his textile engineering degree from Lowell Technological Institute and master’s from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.
Some of the best and brightest members of the class of 2013 were recognized at both the Commencement Eve Celebration and Commencement exercises for their excellent academic achievement and their outstanding contributions to the community and the University.
The co-valedictorians were Owen Welsh of Nahant, a mathematics major, and James DiMento of Georgetown, a business administration major, both received the Trustees Key for completing all four years of undergraduate study at the University with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. In addition, both are recipients of Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement; Welsh for the College of Sciences and DiMento for the Manning School of Business.
Chancellor’s Medals for Academic Achievement were also awarded to Jenna Montgomery of Townsend, a psychology major, Heidrun Ryan of Littleton, history, and Ashley Anthony of Middleton, English (College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences); Karalyn Forte of Lowell, clinical lab sciences (School of Health and Environment); Eric Kehoe of Derry, N.H., mathematics (College of Sciences); Michael Shustack of Boston, civil engineering (Francis College of Engineering); Rebecca Mayer of Brattleboro, Vt. and William Froehlich of Marlton, N.J., both liberal arts majors, and Indira Persand Hooloomann of Acton, information technology (Division of Online and Continuing Studies).
The Chancellor’s Medal of Recognition was awarded to Riley Wetmore of Swanton, Vt., a business administration major.
The Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service was awarded to Jemima Abankwa of Worcester, a biology major; Rudy Baez of Lawrence, management; Brian Dano of Merrimack, N.H., marketing; Gianni Falzone of Saugus, business administration; Vanessa Kent of Charlton, accounting; and Eric Peary of Woburn, business administration.
The University Medal for Community Service winners were Geoffrey Korir of Lowell, biomedical engineering; Justin Kopec of South Hadley, psychology; Jessica Lynch of North Dighton, exercise physiology; and Erin Webster of Littleton, computer engineering.
Gia O’Connor of Dracut, an exercise physiology major and member of the women’s soccer team was presented with the University Scholar-Athlete Award.
from the night.
See video from the awards presentation
and the celebration