▲ Lowell’s mill buildings provided a historic backdrop for the Middlesex expansion. “I’m all by myself, one person, and I was saying, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ ” What was next was lunch on that first day on the job with MCC’s Dean of Business Carole Cowan. “I liked her instantly,” Sheehy recalls. “We talked a lot about Lowell. Coming from Lynn, she was very interested in hearing more about the city and understood why it was so important that Middlesex move into a city setting. I remember that lunch vividly, because I knew right away this was a woman who had vision.” Over the course of the next few months, the number of MCC staff members assigned to Lowell grew to 10, all of them packed into two offices. Yet there was still no clear roadmap that showed how the college would actually expand into Lowell. While the state legislature worked to find money to help the college’s Lowell expansion, MCC staffers did their best to serve as ambassadors and help make their presence known. Faculty tours, welcome banners across Merrimack Street, and picnic lunches at Lowell National Historical Park were some of the public relations tactics employed to help trumpet MCC’s arrival. Finally, in July 1987, word arrived from the Governor’s office that the expansion into Lowell would receive the funding it needed to survive. “We wanted Middlesex in Lowell to be a place that welcomed everybody. We saw it as a public institution that belonged to the taxpayers, and it needed to be available to the community,” said Sheehy. “We were setting our own agenda.” In September 1987, 392 students enrolled for the first semester of humanities and math courses at MCC’s Lowell campus, housed at the Wannalancit Mills. But as the college began its urban expansion came the news that it was going to have to do so without its founding president. Jim Houlihan, MCC’s first employee and the man who had steered the helm of Middlesex since long before the college’s first students stepped on its campus, was ready to retire. 36