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University Professor Geoffrey Hill, at the Marsh Chapel Poetry Reading, Friday, April 18, 5:30 p.m.

Week of 11 April 2003· Vol. VI, No. 28

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Boston Scholars celebrate 30 years of success in a close-knit community of alums

By Brian Fitzgerald

Boston Scholar Milagros Gonzalez (CAS'89) (bottom right) and students in her history class at Boston English High School. Gonzalez was the first in her family to complete an undergraduate degree program. Photo by Frank Curran


Boston Scholar Milagros Gonzalez (CAS’89) (bottom right) and students in her history class at Boston English High School. Gonzalez was the first in her family to complete an undergraduate degree program. Photo by Frank Curran


Jose Diaz can say with confidence that his education enabled him to work in a field that saves lives.

Diaz (ENG’87,’89), a graduate of BU’s Boston High School Scholarship Program, is a software engineer for the Zoll Medical Corporation in Wakefield, Mass., a medical device company that manufactures defibrillator monitors for portable defibrillators. “Many people don’t realize that portable defibrillators are like computers in a sense — they have tiny processors in them,” he says. “They need software that can perform a variety of functions, from monitoring the voltage levels, recording the number of shocks administered to a patient, to collecting data at the scene, which is then used for diagnostic purposes when the patient reaches the hospital. EMTs can use these instruments to record information as detailed as vital signs and drugs administered at the scene. Without a doubt, they have increased the effectiveness of 911 crews.”

Diaz is one of 1,451 former Boston Scholars who have taken part in the nation’s largest and longest running scholarship program for urban public high school graduates. Graduates of Boston schools who are chosen for the four-year merit-based awards, which were established in 1973 upon the recommendation of John Silber, then University president, receive full tuition at BU. The program’s 30th anniversary will be commemorated with a reunion luncheon on Saturday, May 17. (For more information, call 617-353-3551.)

“ The scholarship made a great difference in my life,” says the Jamaica Plain native. Diaz initially attended Boston English High School before enrolling in Another Course to College, a special college preparatory program. He had never used a computer until his freshman year at BU, but he successfully combined a newfound interest in computer programming and a love for biology into bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering. “It was nice to have four years of tuition taken care of,” he says, “but it also gave me the chance to form excellent relationships, academically and professionally.” In fact, three years ago, Diaz worked as a programming consultant on a project for Lucia Vania, director of the CAS Brain and Vision Research Laboratory.

As Ruth Shane, director of the BU/Boston Public Schools Collaborative Office, prepares to celebrate three decades of the program’s existence, she is hearing dozens of such success stories. “When the Boston Scholars attend BU, it’s rewarding to see them literally grow up,” she says. “The reunion has allowed me to reconnect with many of them, and after all this time, I start to look on them as my own kids.”

Some of the friendships go way back. She knew Boston Latin High School graduate Joel Oster (CAS’97, MED’97), for example, when he was a fourth-grader in the Collaborative Office’s Saturday Scholars Program for grammar school students.

Steven Treon (CAS’85, GRS’88,’93,MED’93) Photo by Frank Curran


Steven Treon (CAS’85, GRS’88,’93,MED’93) Photo by Frank Curran


Another Boston Scholar who became a physician, quadruple Terrier Steven Treon (CAS’85, GRS’88,’93, MED’93), is director of the Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Program at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. The Macroglobulinemia Program conducts clinical and basic science research on patients with an uncommon form of lymphoma. “We try to find the cause for this disease using basic science, and we also perform clinical trials at centers in the United States and abroad,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to try to impact the care of thousands of patients with this disease. Among these trials has been the exciting development of immune therapies, getting away from chemotherapy and getting into biological and immune-based therapies, which appear to be very effective.”

Treon says the scholarship “gave me, first of all, the freedom to go to a wonderful university with a national reputation in the arts and sciences. It allowed me the opportunity to broaden my experience in medicine. Since BU has a joint undergrad and medical school program, I was able as an undergrad to take medical courses, so while I was doing my undergrad studies, I was also learning a lot about medicine.”

Nearly 700 graduates of the program live and work in Massachusetts, three-quarters of them in the Boston area, including Phuong Cao (CAS’93, SED’09), who teaches math at Boston Latin Academy in Dorchester. The native of Vietnam, who had no background in English when he came to the United States, was president of the Vietnamese Student Association at BU. “Getting the Boston High School Scholarship was a big thing for me and my family,” says Cao, one of 11 children. “I was the first in my family to complete college.” The same is true for Milagros Gonzalez (CAS’89), a history teacher at Boston English High School.“At the beginning it was a bit of a challenge,” she says. “I think it was a little bit of a shock for me that very first semester. But especially after sophomore year, I was on my way.”

BU to London to BU

Boston Scholars have entered a variety of professions — some at their college alma mater, including Mary O’Neill (CAS’00), assistant administrator of BU’s Office of Sponsored Programs. The graduate of Boston Latin says that her scholarship enabled her to spend a semester in London as an intern at the New Local Government Network, where she worked as an employee after graduating. “As the youngest of 10 children, knowing that my parents didn’t have to worry about tuition bills was a great relief,” she says. “Studying at BU exposed me to great teaching and great opportunities, including working with a number of senior UK policy makers. When I moved back here from England in late 2001, one of my economics professors at BU, Peter Doeringer, contacted me about possibly working for the Institutional Review Board, which he chairs.” The Institutional Review Board is the administrative body that protects the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in BU research activities. “I’ve since been promoted to my current position,” she says. “It’s unlikely I would have had experiences like these without the Boston Scholars Program. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

Michael Dennehy (CAS’92, SED’01) also returned to BU, to direct the Collaborative Office’s Upward Bound Program at SED, a college prep program for Boston public high school students. “It’s a year-round program with a six-week summer residential program and academic and after-school support during the school year,” he says. “This is an opportunity for me to give back to the Boston community, to help students from a school system I attended. In a very real sense, the Boston High School Scholarship Program connected me with what ultimately has become my life’s work.”

Scholarship candidates are nominated each year by their school’s headmasters and chosen by a three-member committee of representatives from the Boston mayor’s office, BU’s Office of Admissions, and the Boston Public Schools. In the summer before their freshman year, the scholars participate in an intensive orientation program designed to facilitate a smooth transition to the University.

Shane says it is gratifying to see the Boston Scholars find their places within BU and then learn to use its resources to shape their educational experiences. “I’ve been involved with the program for 15 years, and many of the Boston Scholars have stayed in contact with me and with each other,” she says. “It’s a fantastic feeling to see them graduate, and then to get in touch with them again.”


11 April 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations