By Kaitlin Solimine
For those that knew Michael Sullivan, it seems only fitting that the $1.2 million scholarship fund he bequeathed to the USC College School of International Relations (SIR) upon his death in 2000 was provided to further the education of USC College graduates lacking the financial means to pursue graduate degrees.
Sullivan, who received a bachelor’s degree from SIR in 1957, was a true believer in educational opportunity for all. As a high school college counselor in the farming community of Watsonville, Sullivan spent nearly 30 years assisting hundreds of underprivileged minority students, most of whose parents were poor immigrants, attend some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation.
“Michael strongly believed that instead of taking three generations to reach the upper echelons of society, bright, poor, minority students could do it in one generation—their own,” says John Sargent, Sullivan’s friend and executor and successor trustee of his estate.
The USC College Michael Sullivan scholarships, each amounting to $12,000 per student, were first awarded in 2003. The bequest was motivated by Sullivan’s desire to ease the burden of educational loans that often keep qualified students from continuing on to postgraduate studies—he believed that the possession of a postgraduate degree offers the best opportunity for higher advancement.
“The scholarships help underrepresented students break through the glass ceiling of academic preparation that leads to positions of power and influence and the integration of the poor and minorities into the mainstream of American society,” says Sargent.
This year, Sullivan scholarships were awarded to international relations students Gordon Douglas, Trisha Lucero and Ksenija Vidulic, who all attended the London School of Economics, and Suzanne Mayo, who is attending the University of Hawaii.
“Michael Sullivan’s pursuit was and still is full of compassion for others,” says Mayo. “He had an understanding of what it felt like to yearn for a dream to come true, but not have the opportunity to try and achieve it. He knew that if he could offer students that opportunity, then they could do what they were really meant to do.”
Sullivan Scholarships Give Promise of Educational Opportunity
By Kaitlin Solimine