First Black Woman Astronaut, COVID-19 Leader to Speak at UMass Lowell Graduation; Dubus Honored

Sian Proctor, left, and Dr. Ashish Jha will headline UMass Lowell Commencement ceremonies next month. (Courtesy photographs.)

The first Black woman astronaut and a national COVID-19 response leader will be at the center when UMass Lowell conducts its commencement ceremonies.

Dr. Ashish Jha, a public health expert currently coordinating the COVID-19 response nationally, speaks during the Saturday, May 14, morning ceremony as graduates from the Francis College of Engineering, Kennedy College of Sciences and Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences receive their diplomas. During the afternoon, Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft and noted geoscientist and artist, addresses graduates of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences as well as the Manning School of Business.

“We’re excited to have our class of 2022 graduates hear from these esteemed international leaders in health care, space exploration and sustainable energy and we are honored they will be with us as we celebrate student success, family and community,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, a two-time graduate of the university who will step down as chancellor at the end of June. Moloney will preside over her final commencement ceremonies.

Among those being honored throughout the ceremonies are Haverhill native, award-winning and best-selling author Andre Dubus III; philanthropists John and Linda Chemaly; Lowell City Manager Eileen Donoghue and her husband, John O’Connor; and Lowell General Hospital. Dubus will be recognized with the Chancellor’s Medal for the Arts. A UMass Lowell professor of English, Dubus’ works are published in more than 25 languages., while the Chemalys, Donoghue, O’Connor and Lowell General receive Chancellor’s Medals for Public Service and Civic Engagement.

Jha and Proctor, as well as alumni and longtime UMass Lowell philanthropists Brian Rist, class of 1977, and his wife, Kim, and Lawrence Chian-Hsiang Lin, class of 1990, will receive honorary degrees during the two-day celebration. Together, the Rists established UMass Lowell’s first endowed deanship benefiting students in the Manning School of Business. Also, with the partnership of his wife, Jang-Lin Chin, class of 1980, Lin established the UMass Lowell Lin Makerspace, an open concept engineering work area.

Christopher Niezrecki, UMass Lowell professor of mechanical engineering and an expert on renewable energy, delivers the Commencement speech to master’s and doctoral candidates Friday, May 13. An estimated 4,600 members of the class of 2022 will be honored during the three ceremonies.

Distinguished alumni awards will be presented to Stephen Driscoll, classes of 1966 and 1972, a 50-plus-year faculty member of the UMass Lowell plastics engineering department, and William O’Shea, classes of 1969 and 2003, a former executive of Lucent Technologies and president of Bell Laboratories. O’Shea is the 2022 recipient of the university’s James B. Francis Distinguished Engineer award. Former UMass Lowell senior vice chancellor for finance, operations and strategic planning, Joanne Yestramski, class of 1976, as well as the Independent University Alumni Association of Lowell, will be honored with the Chancellor Medal for Outstanding University Support.

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