The late Paul Sullivan lit up our lives. Today, three years after the former WBZ talk show host succumbed to cancer, he still lights up lives through the Paul Sullivan Leadership Institute at Middlesex Community College in Lowell.
Every year the Institute selects a dozen students, men and women, to go through a ten-month program preparing them for becoming leaders in the workforce and in their community. Run by Sullivan’s widow, Mary-Jo Griffin, the program uses workshops, offsite programs and community events to teach these young people about everything from public speaking and etiquette to team building, leadership skills, media and the importance of community service.
Paul was a friend of mine. He participated as a panelist on my Five on Five program on Channel 5 WCVB-TV, where the late WBZ talk show David Brudnoy discovered him and brought him to WBZ-radio. Paul had been a favorite on Lowell radio and at the Lowell Sun. He would have loved seeing how his dream of the institute has succeeded, bringing students together with business and government leaders to learn the skills necessary to becoming the community’s leaders of the future.
The students begin the program uncertain and unsure of themselves. Ten months later they have blossomed, shining examples of poise and self-confidence. The Institute accomplishes this by moving them outside their comfort zones.
Take Moses, an international student from Kenya. English is his third language. He has taken to heart the motto of the leadership training workshops, believing firmly that “If I’m not going to correct the mistakes of my country, then who will?” His father once told him that, in naming his son Moses, the baby was the one would “deliver our family from the troubles of life.” Moses is studying filmmaking and theater and shines as an emerging leader.
Another fellow, Jackie, a young mother, says of the Paul Sullivan Institute, that it is the first year she has ever felt included or recognized for her skills and hard work. She says she’ll be going back to the workplace knowing she has a leg up.
All different ethnicities, ages, interests and experiences, but sharing an enthusiasm for the Paul Sullivan Institute that would have made Paul very proud. Too bad the Fellows never had a chance to meet this funny, compassionate, understanding, reasonable and amiable everyman. His easygoing manner and wit belied an incisive understanding of issues and accurate insight into people. He would be someone all the Fellows could look up to, the kind of guy who continues to be missed, several years after he is gone.