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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Bulger Gala Brings Funds, Friends

Despite a groundswell of controversy over such incidents as vague congressional testimony concerning his relationship with one of the FBI’s ten most wanted and a $960,000 severance package granted upon stepping down as president of the University of Massachusetts, a recently held black-tie gathering made one thing crystal clear-William Bulger continues to command loyalty among the faculty, students, alumni and friends of UMass.

It was a cold and raw on Friday, March 12 in front of Boston’s historic public library. Questions to the arriving quests, clad in tuxedos and evening gowns, went politely unanswered. Prior requests to be allowed into the gala were denied to this reporter by the President’s Office and Board of Trustee Chair Grace Fey, who in a voice mail reply, tactfully explained that the number of guests would be strictly limited to 300, and that since the event was funded entirely by private donors, no news press would be admitted.

Apparently things changed, as Jenna Russell reported in the March 13 metro-region section of the Boston Globe that though the gala was “[o]riginally planned as a reception for 300 guests, the list of attendees grew to 400 after dozens of people asked to join the party, Fey said.”

The invitation-only gala took place in Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library, an institution where Bulger has been a trustee. The guest list was an impressive “who’s who” of Boston’s political, business, and education circles, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.

UMass Communications Director John Hoey explained that in addition to celebrating Bulger’s 70th birthday and his seven years of service at the helm of UMass, one of the goals of the gala “was to fundraise $1.5 million that would go directly towards scholarships for UMass students in need.”

The entire event was organized by members of the Board of Trustees in conjunction with the UMass Foundation, a non-profit organization that secures private gifts and grants that help support the university.

Also on hand were the student trustees from the Boston and Worchester campuses. UMB Student Trustee and economics major Jamal Brathwaite was emotionally moved because “so many people came far and wide, from the East and West Coasts and even Ireland to congratulate, commemorate and honor William Bulger for his lifelong dedication to public service.”

One particularly heartening moment of the evening, Brathwaite added, came when one of Bulger’s sons played a tribute to his father on the violin. During a brief conversation with the former university president that night, Brathwaite recalled a moment when Bulger confided that UMass Boston would always hold a special place in his heart.

“Ultimately the event was successful,” Brathwaite concluded, “being that one million dollars was raised for UMass student scholarships.”