JFK and Ryan Awards

University of Massachusetts Boston senior Sam Chandler is the 37th recipient of the John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence—the highest honor given to UMass Boston graduates.

The award is given to the graduating senior who best exemplifies academic excellence, commitment to service, and good citizenship. Winners receive a $1,000 honorarium, a bust of John F. Kennedy, and the opportunity to speak at their commencement ceremony.

“The nominees for this year’s JFK Award excel in the classroom while also making the University of Massachusetts Boston a better place for their fellow students, professors, and community members,” Chancellor Motley said. “Even among this impressive group, Sam’s contributions stand out. His military service, his advising work with freshmen, and his volunteer efforts make him more than deserving of this award.”

Chandler entered the Marines shortly after his graduation from Lincoln-Sudbury High School. Just months later, he was sent to Fallujah for the first of two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The quick deployment forced Chandler to master his new job in a war zone. Before long, he was taking on additional responsibilities typically reserved for more senior service members.

“It was very empowering to me as a young Marine,” Chandler says of his first experiences in Iraq. “I started off just learning the ropes, and then I realized I have a lot to offer.”

After the Marines, Chandler brought that lesson to UMass Boston, where he has distinguished himself by his exemplary academic performance and his devotion to the campus community.
As a student in the College of Management, Chandler has earned a 3.8 GPA while pursuing a concentration in renewable energy. He plans a career “on the business side” of innovations in solar and wind power.
Chandler’s proudest achievement at UMass Boston is his service as an academic peer advisor to new freshmen: helping them register for classes, plan a course of study, and acclimate themselves to the university environment.

“They’re here on their orientation day, and their head is spinning,” Chandler said. “I get to sit down with them and say, ‘Alright, I’m a student here, let’s ground it a little bit. I’m going to tell you all the stuff you don’t know.’”
Away from campus, Chandler is a founding member and assistant director of the Andrew Graham Semper Fi Fund, a local nonprofit that hosts a 5K race each fall. The proceeds fund a scholarship in memory of Chandler's friend and fellow Marine, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

As he prepares to graduate, Chandler says, “I think the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from my time here is, you get back what you put in. If you just kind of tread water and get through it, that’s what you’re going to get back. But if you really go out there and engage and put yourself out there, you’ll get a lot more out of it.”

Chandler, 26, graduated May 31 with a degree in international management. Chandler is ready to go all in on his next endeavor: later this month, he will continue his studies in the MBA program at Babson College in Wellesley.

The university has an impressive list of previous JFK Award recipients.

Ryan Award

The Ryan Award is named for John W. Ryan, who was the first chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston. He served from 1965 to 1968. It commemorates the first convocation of UMass Boston and recognizes excellence in the student body. The Ryan Award is given to the student who has achieved the highest cumulative average for four semesters in residence during the freshman-sophomore years. The first Ryan Award was granted in 1971.

The university has an impressive list of previous Ryan Award recipients.