The University of Massachusetts Boston honored community and political advocate Peter J. Berlandi, of Plymouth, with the Chancellor's Medal for Exemplary Leadership – the university's highest honor – at its eighth annual Scholarship Gala Monday night. The benefit raised more than $500,000 for a new scholarship for students from the metropolitan Boston area, making it the most successful fundraiser in the university’s history.
Over 550 people filled the university's Campus Center, including Gala Chair and former Governor William Weld, UMass Board of Trustees Chair James Karam, UMass President Robert Caret, and Gala Host Committee members Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, former Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, and former Attorney General Francis Bellotti.
The medal, awarded by UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley, acknowledges Berlandi’s service as a former member of the UMass Board of Trustees, his role as a businessman and advisor to both the Democratic and Republican parties, and his efforts to support young people through teaching and mentoring programs.
“With a distinguished record of civic engagement, Peter J. Berlandi is truly an exemplar of the public purpose of higher education,” Chancellor Motley said. “The ‘education for service’ legacy he represents is one of the most powerful strands of UMass Boston’s identity.”
Berlandi, a 1969 graduate of Boston State College, a university predecessor institution, is the first Boston State College alumni recipient of the Chancellor's Medal for Exemplary Leadership.
The event attracted 136 sponsors. Over $500,000 was raised to endow the new Peter and Jackie Berlandi Scholarship fund, which will be awarded annually to residents of the Boston metropolitan area.
“The Berlandi Scholarship will help ensure that Peter’s legacy of public participation, teaching and mentoring, and devotion to our city and commonwealth will enliven UMass Boston’s mission in perpetuity,” Gala Committee Vice Chair Karam added.
Lillian O’Flaherty, a 2011 graduate of UMass Boston and teacher at the Boston International School, shared her reflections on the profound impact of scholarships. She said that more than its financial value, it represented “validation, inspiration, and freedom.” In thanking the donors to the Berlandi Scholarship she added, “You understand that public education is our society’s ultimate investment, our great equalizer.”
Berlandi joins a select group of Chancellor's Medal recipients, including Savings Bank Life Insurance Company CEO Robert Sheridan, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Congressman Edward Markey, Senator John Kerry, and Governor Deval Patrick.
“Times have changed, and it is a lot more expensive to get a college degree,” Berlandi said, referencing his own college experience. “Part-time jobs are no longer going to cut it. By being here this evening and honoring me, you have allowed us to help students in the greater Boston area achieve their goal of getting a college degree.”