Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright both received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letter degree at the 38th Commencement of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in Worcester on June 5, 2011. When presenting their diplomas, Chancellor Mike Collins noted the global nature of Autism Speaks saying “the mission of Autism Speaks is being heard around the world.” He also shared that UMMS has participated in Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue campaign for the past two years.
Also receiving honorary degrees were Donna Shalala and Arthur Pappas, M.D. Shalala, who gave the commencement address, is the president of the University of Miami, the first woman to lead a Big Ten university and the longest-serving Secretary of Health and Human Services in U.S. history. Dr. Pappas is considered the first UMMS surgeon and through his talent transformed the lives of countless children as well as served as the medical director for the Boston Red Sox.
The commencement was especially poignant because the graduates are all embarking on careers in medicine – to help individuals and families struggling with diseases, disorders and illness. Among the degree recipients could be the hope for the future of autism research, treatment or diagnosis. President Shalala may have put it best when she presented challenges to the 2011 graduates on several issues “It’s not a disease that you’re interacting with, but a person, and that person isn’t a case, or a claim, or a subject, but an individual with a heart and a soul.”
See some press coverage of the event here:
Worcester Telegram and Gazette
UMass Medical graduates hear messages of compassion