Former Lowell Senator Paul Sheehy, who played critical roles in the creation of both of Middlesex Community College's Bedford and Lowell campuses, passed away this morning. Sheehy was the husband of retired Lowell Dean Molly Sheehy.
Sheehy served as a state legislator for much of MCC's first two decades, and as a Lowell Senator, was instrumental in helping the college expand into the Mill City.
"Middlesex Community College would not be in Lowell were it not for the tireless championing that Paul Sheehy did on our behalf," said MCC President Carole Cowan, who was working in MCC's administration and finance section when the plans were formulated to make the move north from Bedford. "Paul knew the value of having an urban campus, and he was able to bridge the connections for us to secure state funding to explore the options in Lowell. He was one of our biggest cheerleaders in the 1980s to bring us to Lowell, and remained one of our biggest supporters in the decades that followed."
In earlier interviews, Paul Sheehy recalled his enthusiasm at making the Lowell campus happen. "Bringing Middlesex to Lowell was a natural opportunity to enhance education opportunities for people in Lowell," he recalled in a 2010 interview. "Lowell at the time was short on academic opportunities and we had a lot of people going into Boston to take certain courses." Sheehy advocated with then-Governor Michael Dukakis to take a look at Lowell as an option for a Middlesex expansion beyond its suburban environs in Bedford.
Sheehy's wife, Molly, was literally, the first Lowell-based employee of the college, and served for more than 25 years before her retirement last year.
Ironically, Paul Sheehy had also been involved with locating Middlesex in its first home, on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford. A state representative at the time, Sheehy met regularly with members of the Massachusetts Board of Community Colleges when the plans were underway to locate a community college, the 13th in the state, in Middlesex County.
"This is a man whose fingerprints can literally be found all over the critical points of Middlesex Community College history," said Cowan. "He was a friend to so many of us personally, but because of his commitment to us and to education, he was a friend by extension of all of the students who've had a chance to pursue an education at Middlesex."
Sending our best wishes for a healthy recovery and outcome for Brandon Fitzgerald, one of our Facilities workers, who was critically injured in a snowmobiling accident over the weekend in New Hampshire.
Brandon Fitzgerald, 23, of Westford, was riding along on Lake Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough when his snowmobile hit a snow berm at the town beach area on Long Island Road. Brandon was ejected from his snowmobile and thrown more than 80 feet, striking a guard rail on the opposite side of the road. Brandon was wearing a helmet, but suffered serious head injuries.
The accident happened early Saturday morning. Brandon was taken by ambulance to Moultonborough Airport and then airlifted by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where he is listed in critical condition.
Brandon is a familiar face to many on the MCC campus, having graduated from the college's Transition Program, and then accepted a job with our Facilities Department. He's known to virtually everyone on the Lowell campus, as he's always lending a hand for all our campus events, and is frequently seen working various projects throughout the halls of the city building.
Pamela Orne, who supervised Brandon during his two years in our Transition Program, said "Some students come to the program and learn work ethics and how to be a good employee. Brandon came to our program with that strong work ethic already ingrained in his personality. He loves to work, and he would only work to the best of his ability, anything less would never do."
Orne said "not only is Brandon a great worker, which is evident in the fact that we brought him on at MCC as a full-time employee, but he is endearing to all. Brandon is kind, polite, and eager to please everyone around him. He's truly a success story."
Executive Vice-President Jay Linnehan said Brandon is a much-loved member of the Facilities department, always lending a hand for whatever the task may be. "Brandon's one of those guys who you can always count on to be there for you, no matter the task. We're getting buried with a snowstorm, Brandon's always out there with his shovel or bucket of sand. And he's always appreciative of being able to help our students, staff and faculty. He was grateful for the opportunities he received at Middlesex, and is a valued member of our team. We're all pulling for him."
Tom McKay, who for years supported Middlesex Community College, both as a longtime member of the fund-raising arm of its Foundation, and through his support at the helm of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, passed away this weekend.
For years, McKay was "the voice behind the curtain," providing the introductions annually at the college's Celebrity Forum fund-raiser. While helping to run the auditorium, McKay was a huge supporter both for the Celebrity Forum to make sure all of the details for the special night went off as planned, but also for the college's annual commencement celebrations.
Unknown to many, McKay was also a longtime member of the Middlesex Community College Foundation, helping support the college's fund-raising efforts year-round.
"Tom was a remarkable man who did so much work behind the scenes," said MCC President Carole Cowan. "The thing that was special about Tom was that he was never the one who would look to be in the spotlight, but he did a terrific job of making sure everybody else would shine in that spotlight. Over the years, he rubbed shoulders with many of the greats, but the truth is, he was one of those greats himself."
Jim Henderson, chairman of the MCC Foundation, said McKay's contributions to the college went deep, and he was always there when the college needed his support.
"Tom was a go-to guy who never hesitated to ask what he could to help the college out, no matter the cause," Henderson said. "He was a Lowell institution that you always knew you could count on. His loss will be felt greatly by our board."