LOWELL, Mass. – Labor and industrial historian Robert Forrant has been named Distinguished University Professor, the highest distinction bestowed on a University of Massachusetts Lowell faculty member.

Forrant, a faculty member in the Department of History, received the honor for his outstanding contributions to teaching, research and service to UMass Lowell, including the development of public history projects, most notably about the cities of Lowell and Lawrence.

Forrant, who lives in Lowell, has taught at UMass Lowell for 22 years and helped to develop its new master’s degree in history. He has secured more than $14 million in research grants, either individually or jointly with colleagues, from agencies and organizations such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Russell Sage Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Lowell National Historical Park, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the UMass President’s Office.

“I really appreciate this honor; I love this place,” he said. “UMass Lowell is a great place to do this work and the History Department has given me a great vehicle, in that I can pretty much teach what I like to teach. In particular, the cities of Lowell and Lawrence are living laboratories and offer a wonderful opportunity to teach students about the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”

Community history and the social and economic development of the Merrimack Valley are hallmarks of Forrant’s work. In the coming year, he will engage UMass Lowell students in researching and writing a history of the Coalition for a Better Acre, a nonprofit organization working to empower residents and drive economic development in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood. He and his students will also conduct research in support of an exhibit about immigration to Lowell for the university’s Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research.

Forrant works extensively with the UMass Lowell Center for Asian American Studies, the Tsongas Industrial History Center and Lowell National Historical Park, where he helps train high school history teachers and involves students in creating exhibits, programs and digital archives.

In Lawrence, Forrant serves on the boards of Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School and the Lawrence History Center, where students in UMass Lowell’s Honors College recently presented programs on the local effect of urban renewal. Forrant served as the chairman of Lawrence’s centennial observance of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike – an event considered by historians to be a watershed moment in the U.S. labor movement. As part of the celebration, he created an honors seminar about the strike for UMass Lowell students, produced commemorative and educational events, led walking tours of Lawrence, and collaborated on an exhibit and two books about the strike.

Forrant led the development of UMass Lowell programs that marked the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and commemorated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in order to engage students, faculty, staff and the public about these and related issues. The informative six-month event series brought civil-rights activists to campus, along with a photo exhibit of images from the 1960s depicting African Americans’ quest for equal rights.

Forrant was nominated for the Distinguished University Professor honor by Associate Prof. Mignon Duffy, chairwoman of UMass Lowell’s Sociology Department and associate director of the university’s Center for Women and Work, which researches gender issues in the workplace. She commended him for mentoring students through his classes and the Emerging Scholars Program, which provides a year-long opportunity for undergraduates to apply what they are learning in the classroom to research with faculty members.

“His students praise his ability to challenge them to open their minds to new perspectives, to show them the relevance of history and to share his passion for history and social justice,” Duffy wrote in her nomination.

Beyond UMass Lowell, Forrant has served as a consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the International Labour Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Metalworkers Federation and other trade unions. Before beginning his career in higher education, he worked as a machinist and union business representative. His book, “Metal Fatigue: American Bosch and the Demise of Metalworking in the Connecticut River Valley,” recounts his time as an employee of American Bosch in Springfield in the 1980s when the company shut down the plant and moved jobs elsewhere.

As part of his appointment, Forrant will deliver the annual Distinguished University Professor lecture during the spring 2017 semester.

UMass Lowell has previously recognized Forrant with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award. He is also the recipient of the UMass President’s Award for Public Service and a Massachusetts History Commendation from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

The Distinguished University Professor, a three-year designation, is awarded annually by UMass Lowell. Forrant’s term runs through August 2019. Other honorees include Computer Science Prof. Holly Yanco, UMass Lowell’s 2015 recipient, and Civil and Environmental Engineering Prof. Pradeep Kurup, whose appointment runs through 2017. Past recipients include Work Environment Prof. Laura Punnett, Plastics Engineering Prof. Stephen McCarthy, Education Prof. Regina Panasuk, Physics Prof. Robert Giles, Work Environment Prof. Ken Geiser and Biological Sciences Prof. Susan Braunhut.