Northern Essex Community College’s 60th Commencement Lauds Students, Partners and Staff

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

Northern Essex Community College’s first traditional graduation ceremony since 2019 this past Saturday brought praise for the commencement speaker and area partners.

The Outstanding Alumni Award went to 60th Commencement speaker Dr. Eric Dickson, a 1988 graduate of Northern Essex’s Respiratory Care Program who is now CEO and president of Mass Memorial Health. Richard Padova, who teaches history and government at Northern Essex and is a member of the college’s alumni board praised Dickson.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he served as a leading voice in the effort to resolve and mitigate difficult challenges in the healthcare industry, working through hospital bed and staff shortages while promoting safe practices,” he said.

Dickson stressed the importance of having a “mighty purpose” in life, sharing George Bernard Shaw’s poem, “A Splendid Torch.”

The Community Partner Award went to Lawrence General Hospital. Northern Essex President Lane A. Glenn credited the hospital and other local health organizations, with their response to the pandemic. “They were quick to set up testing centers and, when the vaccine was available, the hospital created vaccine clinics that were open night and day through the city. Hospital staff worked under extraordinarily difficult conditions and at the risk of their own health, to care for the residents of Greater Lawrence and prevent the spread of COVID 19.”

Mike Mancuso, chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees, accepted the award.

The Social Justice Award, recognizing individuals, groups, departments and initiatives that promote values such as a commitment to equity and diversity of the advancement of human rights and social justice, was presented by Glenn to the English Language Learners Task Force.

Four long-time members of the college’s faculty and staff received emeritus status. They are Rick Lizotte, who taught English as a Second Language for 36 years and was a curriculum designer in the college’s Center for Instructional Technology, was named professor emeritus of English as a Second Language; Stephen Mathis, who retired early due to health issues, professor emeritus of English; Wendy Shaffer, the college’s longtime grant writer who raised millions of dollars for the college and its students, dean emerita of development; and Dr. Jorge Santiago, who taught sociology and social welfare and served as director of the Institute for Community Workforce Development, professor emeritus of sociology.

Glenn called the class of 2022 “one of the most resilient in the college’s 60-year history,” noting the pandemic is “nothing to fear and even sometimes an opportunity. Likely, you are stronger, more confident, and more determined as a result of the last two years.”

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