When Marty Meehan took over as president of the UMass system in 2015, then-UMass Boston chancellor Keith Motley didn’t waste any time telling his new boss what was on his mind.
Motley quickly stressed the need for UMass Boston, long known as a commuter school, to have its own on-campus residential option. Three years later, Motley’s vision became a reality when Capstone Development Partners opened a two-building dorm overlooking the harbor with room to house more than 1,000 students.
Now, Meehan is returning the favor, in a way: The UMass system plans to rename the complex in honor of Motley and his wife, who volunteered extensively for UMass Boston during Motley’s 10 years as chancellor. The complex will be called the Dr. J. Keith and Angela Motley Residence Hall; a building dedication ceremony is scheduled for April 28.
Meehan officially asked the UMass board of trustees to approve the new name in a letter he wrote last August, citing Motley’s extensive leadership in rebuilding UMass Boston’s campus. The board agreed to do so.
“The first thing Keith said to me was: ‘Look, we’ve got a vision here and the vision is not complete until we have high-end residence halls on the Boston campus,’” Meehan recalled. “That’s what ended up happening.”
Motley had argued that giving undergraduates an on-campus place to live that’s a short walk from their classes would help with their learning. It would also make UMass Boston more attractive to more students.
“It’s really added to the university and made it feel like the type of university you want to come to, " Motley said.
Among those planning to attend the April event is Imari Paris Jeffries, the executive director of Embrace Boston who considers Motley a mentor and friend. Paris Jeffries recently presided over another high-profile dedication ceremony: the unveiling of the Embrace sculpture on Boston Common that honors Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. UMass Boston was entirely a commuter school when Paris Jeffries attended as an undergraduate in the 1990s. (Paris Jeffries is now pursuing his doctorate in education leadership there.) He said he is happy that the next generation of students will have a campus where they can “live, work, and play.” As the only public research university in Boston, Paris Jeffries said building the dorms was a “no-brainer.”
Meehan also notes that, under Motley’s leadership, the school’s enrollment grew 25 percent and research funding rose more than 50 percent. Motley worked in various administrative roles at UMass Boston before being named chancellor in 2007. He stepped down in 2017 but remains active on campus, including by teaching classes in the College of Management. (Motley has also been assisting the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, working as interim president there on a consulting basis and helping the organization search for a new leader.)
“Every day that I walk on campus and I watch it transformed, I can see the footprints and fingerprints not just of me but of all those students who sacrificed, faculty members who sacrificed, the staffers and others who sacrificed [to improve the school],” Motley said. “I’m proud of the people and the sense of community.”
Roundtable moves fast to fill EVP job
JD Chesloff knew it would be a tough loss for the group he leads — the Massachusetts Business Roundtable — when newly elected Governor Maura Healey tapped his No. 2, Lauren Jones, to be her labor and workforce secretary.
But Chesloff bounced back by hiring the best person he could find in the field, Tonja Mettlach, as the Roundtable’s new executive vice president. Mettlach started on Monday at the organization, which represents nearly 100 significant employers across the state. She had been executive director of the Massachusetts Workforce Association for the last five years.
Chesloff said in finding his next EVP, he wanted someone with workforce and talent expertise. He also wanted someone whose opinions he respected, to be a sounding board for all elements of the Roundtable’s work. Mattlach fit the bill perfectly. Like Jones did before her, Mattlach will work on advocating on Beacon Hill for public policies to improve the state’s workforce development system and will also provide technical assistance for Roundtable members by connecting them with employment organizations that can help them fill open positions.
Even in this climate of rising interest rates and worries about a looming recession, members still view finding and retaining top talent as their number one issue, Chesloff said.
So does that mean Mattlach will have her work cut out for her?
“Yes, we all do,” Chesloff said. “[But] I feel like I’ve found the absolute best person to continue to deepen and broaden our workforce and talent agenda.”
Cence sets his sights on NYC
A year after Dan Cence’s public affairs firm Issues Management Group acquired a lobbying firm led by his mentor, he is back in expansion mode.
Issues Management Group is opening up its first office in New York, to be led by managing director Maddie Clair. Cence’s firm currently employs four people in New York, along with 50 in Boston, following its acquisition a year ago of Murphy Donoghue Partners.
Cence said Issues Management Group already had been doing work with several New York clients, including Tishman Speyer, Nuvance Health, and the Healthcare Association of New York State. So a New York City office — it’s in the Bryant Park area of Manhattan — was a natural extension.
Meanwhile, Cence has promoted Conor Yunits and Rich Copp to be executive vice presidents. Yunits will focus on the firm’s real estate, lobbying, crisis work, and digital marketing while Copp will handle healthcare and nonprofit work. Cence, meanwhile, will focus on strategic vision and culture.
“What that has allowed me to do is focus on being the CEO and take my eyes up from my feet a little bit,” Cence said. “It’s a frenetic pace every day but it feels right. The growth feels right. It doesn’t feel like we’re out over our skis.”
Foreign capital flocking to Boston
Massachusetts ranks second behind only California in terms of attracting investments from foreign companies looking to grow in the United States. That’s according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, which recently reported more than $50 billion in new foreign direct investment for Massachusetts in 2021 (primarily through acquisitions). So what’s the draw?
Morgan McGrath, head of international banking for JPMorgan Chase’s commercial banking arm, tried to explain the attraction in a presentation he gave last week to bank clients during an event at the bank’s office at 50 Rowes Wharf in Boston held in conjunction with the German-American Business Council of Boston.
Boston is particularly intriguing to European companies, which collectively represent about two-thirds of foreign corporate investments in the United States, because of the concentration of high-powered universities, the research talent here, and the area’s entrepreneurship culture, McGrath said in an interview before his presentation.
“Once you get a critical mass of companies investing in a region, it starts to build on itself,” said McGrath, who is based in New York. “The fact that there’s already a large amount of investment, that tends to attract others to the market.”
Then there’s the simple fact that Boston is simply closer by plane to Europe than any other major US city. McGrath considers that to be a secondary factor but conceded: “Clearly, its proximity to Europe makes a difference.”
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.