Homecoming is here, and UMass Lowell is celebrating its 125th anniversary. UMass Lowell started 125 years ago with the Lowell textile and Lowell normal school, according to Heather Makrez Allen, the executive director of alumni and donor relations. The university has undergone many changes in those 125 years. UMass Lowell has a huge legacy that it upholds. This legacy comes from its Alumni, its students and its faculty.
“[Alumni] feel like UMass Lowell, Lowell tech, Lowell state, whatever the name of the institution was at the time really gave them their foundation to make them who they are,” said Makrez Allen on why homecoming is so important to the thousands of alumni who will be returning to campus this week for reunions, festivals and award ceremonies.
As they return to campus, alumni are often proud to see more students wearing UMass Lowell gear, and enjoy learning about new programs within the university, said Makrez Allen. At reunions or events like the 125th celebration event being hosted at the Inn and Conference Center (ICC) on Oct. 17, alumni are able to meet with students and learn their stories.
“[O]ne thing that the alum usually say is number one that they are very impressed with the students here at UMass Lowell,” said Makrez Allen, “and number two [is] they notice that they are still very hard working.”
About 450 alumni will be returning to campus this week for the anniversary celebration said Makrez Allen. A dinner held at the ICC will combine two large award ceremonies the school holds every year and will recognize new lifetime giving society inductees as well alumni awardees.
In preparation for this event Makrez Allen explained that the university has collected images from throughout the school’s history to hang on the ICC walls and in the Windows. The collage has also collected from the different collages and the UMass Lowell Community artifacts — such as class rings, old lab equipment, grading scales and anything else that might represent the universities past.
“[The goal] is to celebrate the institution and what it has been to people,” said Makrez Allen.
Makrez Allen explained that it was these strong connections to alumni is very important. It is what inspires donors like Brian Rist to give back to the campus. Rist graduated in 1977 and donated five million dollars to the Difference Makers program in 2018. The greenhouse will be renamed after Rist on Oct. 18 as part of the homecoming celebration. These alumni are coming back because they believe in the potential of UMass Lowell students. This can help UMass Lowell students’ network and receive advice from those who have been exactly where they are.
Makrez Allen spoke about what about what it means for the university to have been around for so long when so many other universities have not been able to.
“[UMass Lowell’s] leaders from all of the predecessor’s institutions kind of saw the writing on the walls and made plans to make those adaptations that were needed. I think that is really a neat thing for students to feel proud of. that there is a legacy that now [they] will be a part of,” said Makrez Allen.
This is something that the university and herself are very proud of, and that it is part of the reason why so many alumni come back.
During homecoming there are many events planned specifically for alumni and students, but both are encouraged to attend the hockey game on River Hawk Way at the Tsongas Center. Previously named Hockey Way, the event has been rebranded.
“We just wanted to go with something more in line with the branding of everything else and the branding, River Hawk Way, just kind of gave us a little more flexibility there,” said Makrez Allen.
The annual festival will include live music, games, food, and interactive activities sponsored by the different colleges and schools. It is a great place for students to go and enjoy homecoming. Makrez Allen said the more alumni centered events will be moved closer to the Merrimack River and further away from River Hawk Way, so it is a more student populated event.
Another change to homecoming this year pertains to the athletic hall of fame, explained Makrez Allen. Athletes inducted into the hall of fame used to receive a little pin. This year, athletes will receive a “royal blue blazer, with a patch on it that says they are in the hall of fame,” Makrez Allen said. This new tradition is another way that UMass Lowell’s legacy will live on through alumni. Nearly 50 hall of fame alumni will be attending the hall of fame event on Oct. 18 to watch the induction of four alumni, and many bought blue blazers, according to Makrez Allen.
Correction: The original version of this report erroneously represented Brian Rist as “Bryan,” and provided incorrect dates for both UMass Lowell’s 125th anniversary celebration event and greenhouse re-dedication. This report has been updated to correct these errors. The Connector prides itself on the accuracy and veracity of its reporting and we apologize for any inconvenience our erroneous original report may have caused.