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Campus News / News

Celebrating the Class of 2019

12/17/2019 11:52 am

Dec 17, 2019 | Catalyst

Left: BFA in Theatre Graduate Joi Pierre, Houston, Texas Right: Alumni Association Board President, Damir Utrzan, Ph.D. provided a brief insight into life post-graduation and offered congratulations to the new graduates on behalf of the Alumni Association. Dr. Utrzan graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s of science degree in Psychology and with minors in Human Development and Philosophy

The 165th Commencement ceremony was held on Sunday, May 19, at the Coronado Performing Arts Center located in downtown Rockford. 350 students from 22 states and 12 countries were awarded degrees in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. This year’s graduate keynote address was presented by Bernard Sundstedt ’77. Bern officially retired on June 30, 2019, after more than 25 years of service. Through his more than four decades relationship with the University, Sundstedt has been an integral connector to individuals who represent 11 decades of University life, which became evident in his remarks.

Bern’s uniquely tailored address provided depth to the special bond Rockford University is fortunate to have with Eugene Braunwald, M.D. and alumni from the class of 1969, Drs. Marc and Janice Pfeffer. The University was honored to present Dr. Braunwald, a world-renowned cardiologist, a pioneer in the pathophysiology of heart failure, and special friend of the University with an Honorary Doctor of Science.

Dr. Braunwald is the distinguished Hersey Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the founding Chair of the Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction Study Group (TIMI) at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He trained at New York University School of Medicine and at the age of 25, he had already gained recognition through his published works. Six years later, he was named Chief of Cardiology and Clinical Director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Dr. Braunwald soon became the founding Chair of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. From 1972 to 1996 he was Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

As chairman of TIMI, Dr. Braunwald joined with Drs. Marc and Janice Pfeffer to provide significant insight into the treatment of patients who suffer from acute myocardial infarction and unstable angina. Their groundbreaking work changed the trajectory of cardiac medicine. President Fulcomer provided the following remarks about Dr. Braunwald during the ceremony.

Top: Dr. Damir Utrzan and Dr. Braunwald visit prior to the Commencement ceremony. Bottom: Retiree, Deb Dew, Ph.D. is presented Professor Emerita of Education status by President Fulcomer

Over the past 20 years, you have generously and graciously supported Rockford University in thought, word, and deed.  In addition, your lifetime of professional accomplishments are without compare; they serve as a compelling example of all that is possible in our world – an example our graduates in this and any year would do well to emulate. Your remarkable contributions to science and medicine have forever improved the human condition for people of every race, nation, creed, and ethnicity.

As a recipient of 22 honorary doctorates, we are honored and humbled that you have agreed to accept ours with pride while allowing us to join an impressive role of the most prestigious institutions around the world, whose degrees live on in your heart and adorn the walls of your office.

You are the epitome of liberal learning and embody an exemplary model of the power that exists in allowing oneself to fearlessly challenge the established construct while shattering perceived boundaries for the greater good. 

Your first major paper was published in Circulation Research in July 1954, establishing you as a major force in cardiology ever since. With more than fourteen hundred published articles to your credit, you are the most frequently cited author in cardiology by the journal ‘Science Watch.’

You have served as an editor of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine for 12 editions, and as the founding editor of Heart Disease, now in its 11th Edition – the two most influential textbooks in cardiac medicine. Your contributions to cardiovascular research through your 60-year commitment to Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction studies are simply unparalleled, and your findings have resulted in multiple life-saving therapeutic approaches.

Your paradigm-defining discovery that the size of a myocardial infarction could be reduced by favorably altering the balance between oxygen supply and demand set the stage for modern coronary care management.

Your accomplishments are so significant; it is impossible to express in words here today the depth to which you have impacted our world. But of all your endeavors, we at Rockford University are most thankful for the serendipitous circumstances that some 40 years ago brought you into the lives of Rockford University Alumni Dr. Janice Sikorski Pfeffer, and her husband, Dr. Marc Pfeffer. The SAVE and CARE trials that you conducted with them are regarded as two of the most influential cardio/medical trials in the last century and have saved countless patients.

It is a wonderful story of love, commitment, and compassion that will be given full treatment by our commencement speaker, Mr. Bern Sundstedt. Dr. Braunwald, you have done so much for Rockford University and the world of cardiac medicine; we thank you and would like at this time to appropriately recognize you.