Northern Essex Returns to Traditional Commencement with Successful Grad as Speaker

Dr. Eric Dickson is now a physician and CEO of Worcester’s UMass Memorial Health. (Courtesy photograph.)

Northern Essex Community College return to tradition this spring with its 60th Annual Commencement Ceremony, complete with kilted bagpipers, featured commencement speaker and a reception with refreshments, music and photographic opportunities.

The ceremony begins Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m., under a 2,700-person tent on the Haverhill campus. For the past two years, Northern Essex had to dramatically change its traditional commencement celebration, due to COVID-19. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, students drove on campus to pick up celebration packages, followed by an online commencement later. In 2021, five smaller commencement ceremonies to accommodate social distancing.

“It feels so good to return to “normal” after the past two years,” said Lane A. Glenn, Northern Essex president. “We know how important it is to our students to walk across the commencement stage and receive their well-earned diploma. They and their families appreciate the pageantry of our traditional ceremony, which they will be able to experience again this year.”

This year’s featured speaker will be Dr. Eric Dickson, from the class of ’88. Dickson is now a physician and CEO of Worcester’s UMass Memorial Health, the third largest health care system in Massachusetts, employing more than 16,500 individuals. In the late 1980s, he was a respiratory care student at Northern Essex, who was unsure of what direction his future would take and open to guidance.

Dr. Daniel Coleman of Andover, a pulmonologist and medical advisor to the college’s Respiratory Care Program for the past 35 years, recognized the young man’s potential and suggested he consider becoming a physician.

“He was the first person in my life who recommended that I go to medical school and become a doctor. His mere suggestion in that moment started my career trajectory, which culminated in my current role…I’ll always be grateful for Dr. Coleman’s encouragement that led me to where I am today.”

After earning his associate degree in respiratory care from Northern Essex in 1988, he went on to get a master’s from Harvard University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In addition to the featured speaker, there will be a student speaker selected by faculty and staff and awards will be presented including the Outstanding Alumni Award, Social Justice Award and Emeritus.

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