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Hundreds Celebrate at SPH 40th Anniversary Gala

Honoring a “jewel in the crown of the University”

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For the past year, faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the Boston University School of Public Health have been celebrating the school’s 40th anniversary. A symposia series and dozens of receptions and dinners in 15 states and 13 countries were attended by more than 2,000 people. The yearlong celebration culminated with last Thursday’s 40th Anniversary Gala, a gathering of more than 300 community members, public health leaders, and friends of SPH at the State Room in downtown Boston.

“There’s no place where the missions of research, impact, and education come together as well as in the School of Public Health,” BU President Robert A. Brown told the guests. “It really is the jewel in the crown of the University.”

Brown noted that the theme of the 40th anniversary year, Four Decades Forward, matched the school’s best qualities: “A tradition of working in health and social justice to improve the health of local, national, and international populations, particularly the disadvantaged and underserved. There’s no more important work.”

“We have emerged as a leading voice around a range of issues crucial to the health of the public,” said Sandro Galea, dean of SPH and Robert A. Knox Professor. Pointing to issues like gun violence, racial disparities in health, and barriers to reproductive care, he added, “We are here tonight because we agree that these conditions are unacceptable.”

Joel Lamstein, chair of the SPH Dean’s Advisory Board and president and cofounder of public health management consulting and research firm John Snow, Inc., said the school is poised to take on an ever-greater role in that future. “This is an important time for public health,” he said. “There is a demographic change, there is a technology change, and of course there’s a political change. It requires all of us to work hard to continue this effort.”

Beyond Health Awards, one of the highest honors given by SPH, were presented to Janice L. Cooper, project lead for the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program in Liberia, and Larry Kessler, founding director of the Massachusetts AIDS Action Committee. Both received standing ovations.

Sandro Galea, dean of SPH and Robert A. Knox Professor giving a speech behind a podium

Sandro Galea, dean of SPH and Robert A. Knox Professor, told the crowd that the School of Public Health has “emerged as a leading voice around a range of issues crucial to the health of the public.”

“I stand to thank you on behalf of my team in Liberia” Cooper said, and on behalf of the Carter Center. “I look forward to continued healing for Liberia, and to continue to get my energy from the healers and the mental health services that are working in my country and with whom I am privileged to work. It is really a great honor to accept this award on their behalf.”

Jeannine Rivet (SPH’81), a Dean’s Advisory Board member and executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, echoed that sentiment as she and her husband, Warren Herreid II, were inducted into the William Fairfield Warren Society for their decades of support for SPH and BU. The society honors living individuals and families who have made gifts of $1 million or more to the University.

“I thank the school for what it did for me, I thank the school for what it continues to do for many people all over the world,” said Rivet, winner of a BU Alumni Award, the University’s highest alumni honor, “and I look forward to the next 40 years to see what will come—in accomplishments, successes, and impact to health care in society.”

The celebration included a performance by Danza Orgánica, a social justice–oriented dance theater company based in Roxbury. The dancers performed part of Running in Stillness, a soon-to-premiere piece that confronts the effects of mass incarceration.

Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to Kathryn Brinsfeld (SPH’01), assistant secretary and chief medical officer of the US Department of Homeland Security; Mark A. Keroack (SPH’00), president and CEO of Baystate Health; and Hania Dawani (SON’81,’89, SPH’86), mental health and nursing consultant, faculty in health sciences, at Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates and a California State University, Northridge, associate professor.

The gala was a celebration of “progress towards a healthier world,” Galea said.

“We are just getting started.”

Michelle Samuels can be reached at msamu@bu.edu.

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