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Goodell to speak at UMass Lowell commencement

LOWELL, Mass. - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will address graduates at the University of Massachusetts Lowell's commencement on Saturday, May 29 at 10 a.m. ET at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.

Goodell also will accept a posthumous Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his father, the late U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell, a Republican who was elected to Congress in 1959 and appointed to the Senate following the assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. He established a solid record on issues such as civil rights, the war on poverty and education.

"Roger Goodell is an inspirational role model who can share his personal story of working his way up from intern to leader of an organization that today oversees the diverse interests of the most successful sports league in the world," said Chancellor Marty Meehan. "Our students will benefit from the examples set by Roger and his father, Charles, both of whom have led without compromising their beliefs."

"I learned a lot from my father about the importance of acting on your values and doing what's right, no matter what the pressure and opposition," said Roger Goodell. "I welcome the opportunity to share with UMass Lowell graduates how the lessons I've learned from my father and leading the NFL can be applied to anything they pursue in life."

Other Doctor of Humane Letters degree recipients include Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author; Richard N. Goodwin, presidential speechwriter and adviser to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert Kennedy; Gloria Ladson-Billings, pedagogical philosopher, scholar and educational author; and Alan P. Lightman, physicist, novelist and author of international bestseller "Einstein's Dreams."

In addition to appearing at Commencement, Goodell, the honorary degree recipients and Distinguished Alumna Bonnie Comley, '81, award-winning Broadway producer, will speak at a Commencement Eve Celebration. The gala will benefit student scholarships, including new endowments in honor of Charles Goodell and Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin, on Friday, May 28 at 6 p.m. at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.

Goodell, who was named commissioner in 2006, began his NFL career in 1982 as a public relations intern in the New York league office - a position he secured through an extensive letter-writing campaign to the NFL and each of its then 28 teams. Over the years, he held various positions with the league, including chief operating officer, where he took responsibility for the league's football operations and officiating and supervised league business functions. He headed NFL Ventures, which oversees the league's business units, including media properties, marketing and sales, stadium development and strategic planning. Goodell, a native of Jamestown, N.Y., graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., in 1981 with a degree in economics.

Charles Goodell, who opposed the Vietnam War, led the first anti-war march down Constitution Avenue, his arms linked with Coretta Scott King and George McGovern. He then became a target of the Nixon-Agnew "purge" during his re-election bid. Criticized by his own Republican Party as a radical liberal who was undercutting the president, Goodell lost his bid for re-election to Nixon-backed Republican James Buckley. He returned to practicing law and later founded his own firm in Washington, D.C. In 1976, his former House colleague, President Gerald Ford, appointed Goodell chairman of the Presidential Clemency Board, which reviewed more than 20,000 applications from Vietnam War resisters.

UMass Lowell students who apply for a Goodell scholarship will write essays on the impact that Charles Goodell had on U.S. history.

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