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John B. Duff, 82; was first president of UMass Lowell and state’s first higher education chancellor

Dr. Duff served as the first president of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, one of his many academic roles.
Dr. Duff served as the first president of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, one of his many academic roles.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff/File

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When John B. Duff was named higher education chancellor in 1981, it was not the first time he was a first in a job as an educator and administrator, and would not be his last.

At the time he was named the Commonwealth’s first higher education chancellor, he was serving as the first president of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Nearly five years later, he left the chancellor’s job to become the first nonlibrarian to lead the Chicago Public Library system.

Marty Meehan, chancellor of UMass Lowell, issued a statement saying the university honored “the contributions of John Duff to the university and our city. His wisdom and energy in those pivotal start-up years set this school on a course for success.”

Dr. Duff, 82, of Palm Desert, Calif, died Oct. 1.

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