Marty Meehan is the first undergraduate alumnus to lead the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. On July 1, 2015, he became the university’s 27th president after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and as chancellor of UMass Lowell.
Meehan has an abiding belief in public higher education’s power to transform lives. At his presidential inauguration on Nov. 12, 2015, Meehan pledged to fight for UMass, which he called “the most important institution in Massachusetts in the critical areas of social mobility and economic growth.”
Meehan made raising money for scholarships the centerpiece of his inauguration and generated $1.7 million for scholarship funds on all five campuses. He also closed his congressional campaign committee, transferring its funds to an educational foundation and making a $1 million scholarship donation to his alma mater, UMass Lowell.
Under Meehan’s leadership and with his support and advocacy, UMass has reached new heights and achieved historic milestones. As of the 2016-17 academic year:
- Enrollment has reached a record 74,500 students
- Research expenditures have risen to a high of $629 million
- Financial aid funding has increased to $255 million, its highest level ever
- The university’s statewide annual economic impact is measured at a record $6.2 billion
- U.S. News & World Report now ranks all four UMass undergraduate campuses in the top tier of national universities – making it one of the few university systems in the nation with that distinction
- The UMass School of Law has earned full accreditation from the American Bar Association
- The UMass Foundation has divested its direct investments in fossil fuels, making UMass the first major public university to take such a significant action as a climate change initiative
Born in Lowell, Meehan was one of seven children in a family where the importance of education was stressed. After attending Lowell public schools, Meehan, a first-generation college student, graduated cum laude from UMass Lowell in 1978 with a degree in education and political science. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University in 1981 and a juris doctor from Suffolk University Law School in 1986.
Meehan embraced a career in public service early in his life. He served as the deputy secretary of state for securities and corporations from 1986 to 1990. In 1991, he became first assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, managing a staff of more than 150, including 80 prosecutors, and establishing an innovative “priority prosecution” policy that targeted hardened criminals.
Seeing an opportunity to expand his public service commitment and to serve his nation, Meehan ran for U.S. Congress and was elected to represent the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. He served on the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees and established a national reputation for his legislative leadership, winning praise for his efforts to protect the public from the health risks of tobacco. Meehan was a central figure in campaign finance reform and a major sponsor of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold Bill in the Senate and the Shays-Meehan Bill in the House.
After serving 14 years in Congress, Meehan was appointed chancellor of UMass Lowell in 2007. He made quality, diversity, access and affordability keystones of his vision to raise his alma mater’s reputation and impact. During his eight-year tenure, UMass Lowell’s enrollment grew by nearly 50 percent and the university climbed into the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s best national universities rankings by improving its performance in every sphere of activity, including student success, fundraising and auxiliary revenue generation. His extraordinary achievements at UMass Lowell led to his appointment as president of the five-campus UMass system in 2015.
Meehan resides in Boston and Seabrook, N.H.