Charles Desmond Celebrated for Commitment to Improving Higher Ed System

Maryalice Gill | June 18, 2015
Chancellor J. Keith Motley (right) gives Chairman Charles Desmond a gift at the celebration.

Chancellor J. Keith Motley (right) gives Chairman Charles Desmond a gift at the celebration.
Image by: Harry Brett



Many doors that have opened for our less-advantaged college students would still be closed if it were not for Charlie Desmond.



Former Board of Higher Education Chair Continues to Serve as Vice-Chair of UMass Boston’s Board of Visitors

Chairman of the Board of Higher Education Charles Desmond urged a room full of colleagues to “keep going” with the progress they’ve made to advance higher education in Massachusetts as he moves on from his post following several years of service.

Public university and community college presidents, elected officials, nonprofit leaders, advocates, family, and friends gathered in the University Dining Club Tuesday to celebrate Desmond, who was appointed chairman in 2008 by former governor Deval Patrick.

Desmond’s wife, Phyllis, Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, newly appointed Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago, and incoming Chairman of the Board of Higher Education Chris Gabrieli, and Commissioner of Early Education and Care Tom Weber were among the attendees.

Chancellor J. Keith Motley recognized Desmond’s vision and leadership at UMass Boston’s campus over the last three decades.

Desmond has held several positions at the Columbia Point campus, serving as associate chancellor for school/community collaboration, vice chancellor for student affairs, project director for Upward Bound, and director of pre-freshman programs. Today he serves as vice-chair of the Board of Visitors.

He helped establish the university’s Urban Scholars program, and worked with the Trefler Foundation to develop a relationship between the College of Education and Human Development and Dorchester High School, the beginnings of the Teach Next Year program.

“Needless to say, many of the doors that have opened for our less-advantaged college students would still be closed if it were not for Charlie Desmond,” Motley said. “Charlie, your contributions have made a difference in thousands and thousands of lives. We know your legacy is yet to be complete as you move on from the Board of Higher Education.”

Chancellor J. Keith Motley, Charles Desmond, and Outgoing Commissioner of Higher Education Richard M. Freeland

Outgoing Commissioner of Higher Education Richard M. Freeland reflected on the gentlemanliness, passion, and toughness in Desmond’s commitment to improve Massachusetts’ higher education system before he presented him with the gavel Desmond used throughout his time as chairman of the board.

“He has been my partner—he has always been there for me,” Freeland said. ”He’s been there to make people realize that there is still some congeniality of spirit in the Department of Higher Education, and we’ve come down this road together.”

Commissioner Freeland also spent 22 years at UMass Boston, including roles as founding dean of the College of Professional Studies and dean of the College of Art and Sciences, before moving on to serve as president of Northeastern University.

“I want to say, from where I sit, I know that nothing that I’ve been able to accomplish in my life could have been done without colleagues and friends like all of you,” Desmond said, addressing the room of nearly 100 guests. “You are all, in my eyes, absolutely amazing people, and I could not have been better blessed in this life than to have had the opportunity to share time with you, to work with you, and to have put our heads together to get some things done that we all think are important—to me that’s been great.”

Tags: board of higher education , board of visitors , chancellor , charles desmond

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