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UMass turns 150, events to take place throughout the year

The University of Massachusetts is turning 150 years old this April. And in honor of its sesquicentennial, a vast array of campus and state events are being planned and finalized.

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

“Our sesquicentennial celebration will engage citizens throughout the Commonwealth, including the 120,000 UMass Amherst alumni who live in Massachusetts,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said.

The festivities, which have been in discussion for “a number of years,” UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said, will continue through both 2013 fall and spring semesters.

Beginning the week of April 22, deemed “Founder’s Week,” events will occur on campus at UMass, including Subbaswamy’s official inauguration and the launch of a fundraising campaign, according to a press release.

Three days later, it’ll be Stockbridge Day, also known as the Celebration of Agriculture Day, which features a tour of UMass agricultural facilities – including farms in Hadley and South Deerfield as well as the Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown. The day will end with a reception at the Agricultural Learning Center in Amherst. State and University officials will be in attendance, according to the release.

Many events are also planned to occur off campus at other vicinities located around Massachusetts.

Such events include an official “UMass Amherst Day” held in the state capital of Boston at an undecided date in fall 2013, as well as a statewide traveling exhibit to share UMass’ story and discuss how the University has affected Massachusetts history, according to a press release.

Other commemorations of UMass’ 150 years of operation are planned to be released, including a book titled “UMass Rising: The University of Massachusetts Amherst at 150,” which will highlight the University’s history and emphasize the importance of the memorable faculty and milestones of the past 150 years. This publication will be available in the spring and will be released by the UMass Press, according to the release.

Television spots, including a documentary exploring the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 and its relation to UMass, are on the list of sesquicentennial events to occur this year, according to a release.

The release also stated the UMass Minuteman Marching Band will appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City this November, a feat Blaguszewski called “very prestigious.”

Interviews with students, staff, alumni, faculty and administrators – both current and retired – will be the subject of an oral history project put together by the W.E.B. Du Bois Library in honor of the sesquicentennial, according to the news release. Stories from community members and neighbors who played a part in the University’s development will also be featured as a part of the project.

At the time of the school’s opening, the University was a small agricultural college. The school now has a current enrollment of 28,000 students, and now ranks “among the nation’s top public research universities,” according to the press release.

Subbaswamy said the University “has been a driving force for individual opportunity and economic development dating back to the time of Abraham Lincoln.”

And that economic and agricultural connection will continue as 150 new trees will be planted on campus with the assistance from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, according to the release.

The Master of Fine Arts program for poets and writers will also celebrate 50 years of excellence in an event titled “50/150: The MFA Program for Poets and Writers 50th Anniversary Reading,” to be held at an undecided date in fall 2013.

The events will provide an “opportunity for us to celebrate the achievements and importance of our university,” Blaguszewski said, and that each activity is “a way to celebrate our partnership with the commonwealth for the past century and a half.”

He also said the administration will “continue to reach out to students throughout the year for help with activities.”

More details on the sesquicentennial events will be announced throughout the year, according to a press release. All information can be accessed at www.umass.edu/150, the sesquicentennial’s website.

The planning of the sesquicentennial events “involved a whole range of committees including faculty and staff,” Blaguszewski said, and many of the activities will involve the student body.

“It is ultimately all about the students, teaching them to achieve and prosper in life,” Blaguszewski said.

George Felder can be reached at gfelder@student.umass.edu. Mitchell Scuzzarella can be reached at mscuzzar@student.umass.edu.

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