WSU message inspires.

Author:Schweiger, Sara

Byline: Sara Schweiger

WORCESTER -- Many of the 1,100 members of the Worcester State University class of 2014 learned on Saturday that they had something in common with commencement speaker John L. Sullivan, M.D.

"Fifty years ago, I was the first in my family to go to college -- like nearly a third of you here today,'' said Dr. Sullivan, pioneering HIV researcher and former University of Massachusetts Medical School professor and administrator.

Dr. Sullivan conducted some of the earliest research on the HIV virus, and was instrumental in the discovery of the anti-retroviral drug nevirapine.

He told graduates he had wanted to attend the Air Force Academy, but was unsuccessful in getting an appointment. He attended Le Moyne College, where he majored in biology and decided to become a doctor.

He was wait-listed at two medical schools -- including SUNY Upstate -- where he then applied and was accepted into a Ph.D. program in biochemistry.

As luck would have it, the medical school had a last-minute opening.

"Take advantage of breaks and good fortune that may occur over the course of your career,'' Dr. Sullivan told graduates.

He spoke of two mentors in medical school who convinced him to pursue a career in academic medicine researching pediatric diseases.

"Mentors are extremely important in getting over the hurdles and achieving a successful career. Continue to identify and choose great advisers through your lives,'' said.

He was accepted for a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, where he began research training in virology and immunology. He spoke of initial frustrations, and of calling his medical school adviser, who told him to "grow up and get back to the laboratory.''

He started working at UMass in 1978. Three years later, he was captivated by a report about a new immunodeficiency disease affecting young gay men. It was thought to be the result of multiple, simultaneous infections by common viruses, but soon the disease was reported in newborns who had received blood transfusions and in adults who received medicines made from blood.

This, Dr. Sullivan said, was strong evidence that AIDS was caused by a new infectious agent. In 1984 that agent, HIV, was isolated and shown to be the cause of AIDS.

In 1985, after seeing his first child who was infected with HIV, Dr. Sullivan began studying mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, finding that it usually occurred during labor and delivery.

Dr. Sullivan's research later led him to South Africa. He retired from UMass in 2012.

Worcester State presented Dr. Sullivan with a doctor of science, honoris causa. Other honorary doctorates were awarded to longtime state Rep. John J. Binienda, WSU '70, who could not attend the ceremony; James T. Brett, president and CEO of the New England Council and a former state representative from Boston; and Robert Emmett Mullin, WSU '53 and '56, a longtime professor at Queens College who received his honorary degree during an awards ceremony earlier this month.

Holocaust survivor Thea Aschkenase received Worcester State's Community Service Award. In 2007 she graduated with honors from the university with a degree in urban studies. Today she is an anti-hunger activist and avid volunteer.

The Ella May Whitney student award, Worcester State's highest student honor, was presented to Julianne L Harris, who graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in communication sciences and disorders.



Auburn: Julianne M. Fahey, Rachel E. Kish, Shane M. Matthews, Zachary W. Stuczko

Barre: Meghan M. Peddle

Berlin: Cameron G. Ciesluk

Boylston: Denise M. Laroche (S)

Charlton: Bridget T. Groh, Robert D. Kingman, Jennifer L. Morey

Cherry Valley: Nicole M. Howard

Clinton: Lorelei T. Quinones

Dudley: Sydney M. Stewart, Julia E. Tellier

East Brookfield: Emily M. MacWilliams, Kathryn A. Perreault

Fiskdale: Colby J. Bilodeau

Fitchburg: Jimena L. Punales-Santiago (M)

Gardner: Erin N. Desmarais (M), Luther C. Henshaw, Matthew R. Hermanson, Jordan N. Maxwell

Gilbertville: Riley J. Mann

Grafton: Jillian M. Petit, Jennifer M. Pogorzelski

Holden: Dominic A. DiMeco, Jordan K. Duffy, Carly E. Goodell, Michelle H. Johnstone, Erin E. Ollis

Holland: Ethan A. Anderstrom, Tyrus A. Boudreau, Jacqueline M. Dusza

Hopedale: Lauren A. Tweed

Hudson: Tianna C. Saliga (C), Arianna L. Silva (C)

Jefferson: Nathaniel P. Schell

Leicester: Adah E. Idoko

Leominster: Matthew G. Booth, Ashley B. Cornish (C), Nicole H. Elias, Jarrett A. Waite

Linwood: Sarah R. Bishop

Lunenburg: Danielle K. Maynard, Sara J. Penniman

Marlboro: Peter J. Holmes, Kailey A. Lopez, Colleen Panasevich

Milford: Thomas J. Harmon, Bryant W. Wing

Millbury: Blake A. Bengtson, Timothy L. Bickford, Kevin Rafter, Brian F. Swenson

North Brookfield: Paulius Balciunas

North Oxford: Ryan T. McArdle

Northboro: Christopher M. Hinds (C), Duncan A. Macdonald, Nicholas M. Miller, Theresa M. Smith

Northbridge: Melissa L. Mason

Oakham: Rebecca M. Gibree (C), Kyle S. Taylor (C)

Oxford: Thomas A. Friend (C), Daniel E. Hartnett, Stephanie R. Sanborn (M)

Paxton: Jessica S. Xavier

Rochdale: Nicholas M. Davolio (C)

Rutland: Taylor T. Crane, Krysta L. Ferry, Sheryl M. Reidy

Shrewsbury: Francis D. Dina, Amanda J. Jeznach, Daniel J. O'Leary, Jennifer L. Pacillo

South Grafton: Lindsey M. Stolar

Southbridge: Meaghin M. Fournier, Amie L. Lepage

Spencer: Ashley C. Carey, Daniel J. Cook, Nathan M. Herrera, Benjamin Locke, Andrew J. Philbrook, Sarah R. Ramsey (M), Jeremiah L. Shea (C)

Sterling: Laura B. Alty (C)

Sturbridge: Bob Lucier (C)

Sutton: Kaitlyn F. Glaza, Caitlin Lachowski (M)

Thompson, Conn.: Andrew M. Johnson

Warren: George D. Andrews (M)

Webster: James M. Duszlak, Kathryn C. O'Leary

West Boylston: Constanza A. Bartholomae (M), Jessica L. Dias

West Brookfield: Tyler P. Chase

Westboro: Benjamin N. Kosh, Dana C. Sarver

Westminster: Nicole R. Volk

Whitinsville: Amanda M. Hoegen (C), Sandy A. Wade (M)

Winchendon: Chelsea J. Quinn

Worcester: Melvin J. Baez, Victoria M. Baratian (M), Edward F. Brennan, Shannon F. Brevigleiri (M), Danielle J. Cappellucci (M), Yesenia Castillo, Colin T. Cawley, Timothy M. Chviruk, Katarzyna Ciemiega, Mary-Theresa G. Cournoyer, Debora K. Dias (M), Christina Donas, Robert N. Dookhran, Keith M. Dooley, Nicholas K. Duffy, Dana M. Evans, Emily K. Faucher, Mark E. Favreault, Darrell R. Ginese, Kari-Ann Godberson, Deborah A. Grady (M), Kristianna M. Hanson, Christine A...

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