Featured photo: Oprah Winfrey poses with the first six UMass Lowell Oprah Winfrey Scholarship winners. From left, Coral Gonzalez Diana, Daphne Shakira Naut, Flore Stécie Norcéide, Ashlie Grasa, Winfrey, Jaime Waldron and Nicholas Abourizk.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, on the verge of a nor’easter, Oprah Winfrey held over 6000 people enthralled at the Chancellor’s Speaker Series program at UMass Lowell. Producer, actress, philanthropist and champion of education, Winfrey is also known for her down-to-earth engagement with her audience — her favorite part of her 25-year “Oprah Winfrey Show” and what she missed most after the show ended, she said. Invited to Lowell by Andre Dubus III, English professor and author of “The House of Sand and Fog,” which Winfrey featured in her Oprah’s Book Club, she said that she “didn’t get down to Lowell often” and needed a reason to “fire up the jet.” She noted, “I found that reason — for me to be a tool of service to raise money for scholarships.”
Scholarships were handed out to six recipients and Winfrey was awarded the Honorary Humanities Degree, a degree fully earned through a lifetime of making a difference, said UMass President Marty Meehan. Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney announced that the evening had raised over $1.5 million — and then Oprah Winfrey very quietly said, “And I would like to match that $1.5 million.” The Tsongas Center erupted in shouts and applause. “Oprah Winfrey’s visit will provide scholarship support for UMass Lowell for years to come,” Moloney said. “We are so honored to share an evening with one of the most powerful and most positive people on Earth.”