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Cross Country Grad

News Feature

News & Events

June 1, 2012

Forced to move temporarily across country and finish his Master's of Public Administration degree online due to a health condition, Dennis resident Andrew Whipple had no hope of attending his own commencement ceremony at BSU. So, the university helped bring commencement to the graduate.

Friends had organized a party for Mr. Whipple in his temporary Chino Valley, Ariz., community, where he donned the cap and gown sent to him by the BSU bookstore. It was then that friend Kathy Griffin brought in a surprise package: personalized gifts sent from BSU faculty and staff.

Arthur Slotnick and Matt DeGrechie of the Moakley Center TV Studio, located on campus, had sent a video of the graduate commencement ceremony and incorporated into the presentation photos of Mr. Whipple in his commencement gear. Additionally, his mentor, Dr. Wendy Haynes, associate professor and coordinator of the MPA program, had sent a commencement program with a personal message of support and congratulations.

"It was that personalization that was really thoughtful," said Mr. Whipple. "I was touched and grateful."

At BSU, Mr. Whipple worked closely with Dr. Haynes as a graduate assistant in the political science department, where he became editor of the Political Science Department Newsletter. He also co-authored an article with Dr. Haynes in The Public Manager quarterly journal about federal government leadership.

Mr. Whipple suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Environmental Illness (MCS/EI), which makes it nearly impossible for him to be near mold and various chemicals. In his final semester at BSU, he became profoundly sick for days at a time, so his doctors recommended he move temporarily to the more appeasing climate of Arizona. The community where he lives is for fellow MCS/EI sufferers, including Ms. Griffin. 

Finishing his master's was challenging, but he said BSU's flexibility and online courses, as well as help from Dr. Haynes and Sharon Hines, administrative assistant in political science, all contributed to his success. "Many people at BSU were just very good," he said.

Ms. Griffin said her friend was moved by the gifts sent to him out West, which helped him feel connected to BSU. "He felt, although he was far away physically, he had indeed participated in the commencement celebrations because of this package and the kindnesses of the people at BSU," she said.

In the future, Mr. Whipple hopes to build a small residential community for people with MCS/EI and advocate for people with MCS/EI, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). He plans to return to Massachusetts as soon as his health allows.

Coincidentally, May was national Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Awareness Month and Gov. Deval Patrick proclaimed the week of BSU's graduate commencement as MCS Awareness Week. (Rob Matheson, '07, University Advancement)

For more information on MCS/EI visit: http://www.jenniferparkerfoundation.org.

Donning his commencement cap and gown, Andrew Whipple stands by a lake in Watson Lake Park in Prescott, Ariz., where he and a few friends celebrated his graduation