Medical center hosts college graduation for patient with spine injury

May 29, 2015

IN THE NEWS: It was a college graduation for one, as UC Irvine Medical Center staff hosted a ceremony Thursday for a patient who suffered a traumatic spine injury in early May. Cory Sullivan, 26, was supposed to graduate with his California State University, Long Beach class on May 20 but he was unable to leave the hospital. 

Upon learning of his mother Cindy’s desire to surprise him with his degree, hospital staff swung into action, remaking a sixth floor lounge for a university commencement ceremony, complete with a congratulatory cake and refreshments, in coordination with Cal State Long Beach leaders.

The result, from the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

Tears of joy filled the eyes of relatives, friends and doctors in attendance Thursday afternoon at [UC Irvine] Medical Center as President Jane Close Conoley of Cal State Long Beach delivered a diploma to 26-year-old Cory Sullivan, a psychology major who missed his May 20 campus commencement after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.

“Now you’re one of the newest alums in our 300,000-strong alum family, so you may move that tassel over,” an emotional Conoley told Sullivan, who wore a cap and gown over his hospital garb, brought to him by family members and CSULB administrators who surprised him with the personalized commencement ceremony.

Sullivan, who still has use of his arms and fingers, was in shock for several minutes. He shook his head in disbelief and fought back tears under black-and-gold party ribbons and a balloon congratulating him for completing his studies.

“It’s pretty emotional,” Sullivan said of the ceremony, which included the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” and was held inside a lounge at the hospital. “It was something I didn’t see coming.”

More about Cory Sullivan’s graduation: