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UMass Lowell grads applaud Edward Davis

Dean of College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Luis Falcon laid a hood on Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis during UMass Lowell's commencement exercises.

Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda

Dean of College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Luis Falcon laid a hood on Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis during UMass Lowell's commencement exercises.

LOWELL — Boston’s police commissioner returned Saturday to the city where he grew up, winning thunderous applause at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s commencement, where he was the keynote speaker, for his performance in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings.

“Every decision I made . . . was based on the totality of my life’s experiences that spanned the three decades since I earned my college degree,” Commissioner Edward F. Davis told the graduates. “That same template is going to hold true for you as well.”

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New graduate Rudy Baez, 23, a business administration major from Lawrence, said Davis’s address was inspiring.

“With the tragedy in Boston, how sad things were, he talked about staying strong and connected, to continue to work for what we want in our lives, so I found his speech very motivational,” he said.

Residents here say Davis is an inspiration, a shining example of a local guy who worked his way to national prominence.

“He is ours, and we’re proud of him,” said Dorothy Clark-Diaz, who grew up in Lowell and was attending the graduation of a family friend.

Davis rose from the rank of patrol officer to superintendent of the Lowell Police Department, a position he held for 12 years before becoming Boston police commissioner in 2006.

The commissioner was given an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at Saturday’s ceremony

“It’s something I never expected in my lifetime,” he said of the honorary degree, his second this month.

On May 3, Davis accepted an honorary doctorate in public service from Northeastern University on behalf of the first responders and law enforcement officials who sprang into action after the bombings.

On Sunday, he is to receive an honorary degree from Suffolk University.

In his remarks, the commissioner recalled visits to other countries hit by terrorism, such as England, where he went after the 2005 subway bombings in London. He said he applied what he learned during those trips to his decision-making after the bombings that hit Boston on April 15.

“I am thankful I paid attention to the lessons in London,” he said.

Martin T. Meehan, a 1978 graduate and chancellor, reminded the audience of the heroism displayed after the Boston Marathon bombings.

“We all saw how important it is to help each other,” he said before recognizing first responders and those who helped the injured.

A record 3,169 students graduated in the school’s 22d commencement ceremony, the sixth consecutive year a record has been set.

UMass Lowell also conferred honorary degrees on Nancy L. Donahue, a philanthropist and community volunteer in the Merrimack Valley; Mark and Elisa Saab, cofounders of a Salem company that develops medical device components; and Harish Hande, a social entrepreneur specializing in providing India’s poor with solar energy.

Mary-Kathryn Hazel, who majored in history and graduated with a 3.96 grade point average, gave the undergraduate address.

“This education will set us apart when we leave here today,” she said. “We’re ready, ready to embrace uncertainty, to find our way and leave our mark.”

Davis later acknowledged her words.

“Mary-Kathryn, the student speaker, spoke about uncertainty, and I kind of threw that into my remarks because I think that is really crucial — people don’t realize how uncertain life can be,” he said.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou.

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